MaltaToday: PBS ends up without news editor on election eve
NEWS | Sunday, 20 January 2008

PBS ends up without news editor on election eve

Karl Schembri

The national broadcaster is set to face yet another saga to fill the vacant hot seat of news editor now that Sylvana Cristina has announced her resignation that will be effective from 10 February.
Sources at PBS say the management knew of her impending departure for the last eight months and word about her resignation had been spreading through the grapevine.
In fact, she made no secret of her job interviews with the European Union’s institutions and now she has finally confirmed she will be moving to Luxembourg in the coming months.
Her departure will leave a vacuum in the newsroom’s management just on the eve of the general election.
It also means that there will be nobody legally responsible for PBS editorial content – a role assigned to the news manager since the company’s restructuring.
While the company can appoint anyone to be legally accountable for editorial content, it will be a tough job convincing anyone to take on that responsibility unless he or she could have direct influence on the station’s editorial decisions.
Cristina herself is leaving right in the midst of an editorial controversy, with the station risking a €2,330 (Lm1,000) fine after the chief executive turned down her decision to give the right of reply to Dominic Fenech.
Fenech, who heads the PBS editorial board, took offence at claims made by the Bondiplus presenter who had said that he had declined an invitation to appear on the programme about Evarist Saliba’s memoirs.
Fenech appealed to Cristina for a right of reply, arguing that he was never asked to appear on the programme. Cristina agreed and ruled that Fenech’s reply had to be read on the programme but the station’s chief executive turned down her decision. The Broadcasting Authority meanwhile intervened, insisting that Fenech’s reply had to be broadcast, and has set a hearing for Tuesday in which the chief executive and news manager have been summoned to answer for their decisions.
Last November, Cristina said the investments ministry had ordered “an imposed media blackout” on her that banned her from speaking to the press unless she gets the PBS chairman’s permission first.
Her own appointment was mired in controversy after it turned out that Investments Minister Austin Gatt had preferred The Times business editor Vanessa Macdonald while the Office of the Prime Minister insisted it had to be Cristina who would get the post, overruling Gatt’s decision after leaving the station for a full year and a half without a news head.
Now, with the election heat already scorching the country, it will need more than an attractive pay packet to find anyone willing to stand in Cristina’s shoes.

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