News | Sunday, 12 April 2009

MEP hopeful asked for €1,000 to be hosted on Smash TV

European Parliament candidates invited on talk show ‘Lejn Brussell’, aired on Smash TV, have been asked by presenter Gerald Fenech to pay for their participation in the programme, MaltaToday has learnt.
Other candidates however, have been allowed to participate without ever being asked for money.
An MEP candidate who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity claimed that Fenech invited the political party to take a seat on the debate panel against payment of €1,000 for 10 programmes.
The candidate asked for a discount, seeing that the amount asked was rather steep.
“Fenech offered us a 10 per cent discount,” the candidate said. “So I agreed with him not to take the full package, but pay the first programme out-of-pocket and confirm my participation in the remaining ones upon approval of the party. We set a date for recording, but we were told that this was postponed a few hours before we were meant to be at the station.”
On his part, Azzjoni Nazzjonali secretary-general Malcolm Seychell said he was “never asked to fork out a cent for participation” in Lejn Brussell – neither from Gerald Fenech, nor from anyone at Smash TV.
Contacted by MaltaToday, Fenech said that since he paid good money to purchase the airtime personally from Smash TV, he felt that asking candidates to contribute would help him cover his costs.
“I ask for a donation to help cover costs, but this is merely optional,” he said. “We have already had guests who could not pay and still came on to the programme. There is no hard and fast rule on how this is applied.”
On his part, Smash TV director Joe Baldacchino said he has nothing to do with this method of charging politicians.
“Gerald Fenech bought the airtime, and if he wants to re-sell it, that’s entirely up to him,” he said when asked about the ethicality of asking participants to pay.
Baldacchino had no opinion to make on this novel way of financing a programme. “I don’t interfere in the concept he wants to go ahead with to recover his money. I don’t think he’s actually selling time to politicians mind you, but if he is, it’s his prerogative not mine. He can recoup the costs from adverts too if he wants.”


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