PBS ordered to reveal CEO contract details

No decision on head of news future

John Bundy

John Bundy

The national broadcaster has been ordered to publish the contents of its CEO’s employment contract, which it appeared reluctant to do.

John Bundy, a former programme presenter at Radio 101 who had also unsuccessfully contested the election on the Nationalist Party ticket, was appointed CEO of Public Broadcasting Services last July, replacing Anton Attard.

The appointment, which was not preceded by a call for applications, had surprised many in the industry, particularly as Mr Attard’s contract had been re-confirmed by Justice Minster Owen Bonnici, who is politically responsible for PBS.

Read: TV presenter John Bundy to become new PBS chief

It was reported that Mr Bundy’s appointment had not been communicated in advance to the board of directors, who had approved later following a secret vote.

This newspaper asked PBS several times to provide a copy of Mr Bundy’s employment documents and to say what happened to Mr Attard’s contract but the State broadcaster kept insisting it could not divulge such information.

Mr Attard’s contract had been tabled in Parliament.

Even though the Times of Malta pointed out that as a public company financed through taxpayers’ funds, PBS was obliged to give details for the sake of accountability and transparency, it continued to refuse, arguing that the salaries of its top officials were “generated from its commercial activities through advertisement sales, air time and services”.

After this newspaper made a request for an investigation under the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Commissioner decided that PBS, as a public authority, was not justified in withholding such information and ordered it to provide the necessary information within a month.

The commissioner, Saviour Cachia, argued that “the public interest is better served by providing the applicant [the Times of Malta] full access to the request”.

He highlighted the fact that, for 2016, the government had approved an estimated expenditure of €4 million at PBS in view of the obligation imposed by law on it to satisfy a public service obligation.

“Such funds are surely intended to cover the salaries of, inter alia, top management,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, the PBS board is yet to decide on the future of head of news Reno Bugeja, who reaches retirement age next month.

When contacted, Mr Bugeja said that he had not been told yet whether he would be retained or not.

Names of a possible successor are already being bandied about, both within the station itself and also in the industry.

Former One TV journalist Norma Saliba appears to be in pole position.

However, veteran journalists Ruth Amaira, Peter Cossai and former RTK reporter Mario Micallef could also be contenders for the top editorial job.

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