Xarabank presenter and producer Peppi Azzopardi on Friday defended the enormously popular TVM show as never having been guilty of imbalance, after it was announced that it would be taken off the air.

“Saying I feel nothing about the decision would be a lie, but I have always believed in the power of what the show could achieve,” Azzopardi said about the programme that has run for 23 years.

“My only comment is this: if someone up the line thought this would be enough to shut me up, then they don’t know me well.”

The chairman of Public Broadcasting Services, Tonio Portughese, said the decision was not politically motivated and was part of an exercise to freshen up the upcoming autumn schedule on the state broadcaster

Speaking to Times of Malta, Portughese said that the television schedule for PBS is renewed every year through its public statement for intent.

“The editorial board has a duty to renew the schedule yearly,” Portughese said.

“A lot of producers apply and we analyse all the proposals, some programmes stay while others go. The programme is then presented to the board of directors who also weigh in to make sure the projects are financially feasible.”

Decision was not politically motivated- Portughese

Asked whether there was political pressure to take the programme off the air, Portughese replied, “absolutely not”.

“The decision was taken as part of the process to renew the schedule,” Portughese said, adding that the publication of the schedule in the coming days would see several new programmes added for the upcoming season.

Azzopardi said he had no idea why the show had been cancelled as it still enjoyed high viewership.

“I have always said that as long as people wanted to see the show I would keep doing it. Our power comes from the strength of the people whose stories we tell.”

He said he had always been biased in favour of minorities and those facing hardship in life.

“I would say a good 98 per cent of the social problems we heard about at Xarabank never made it to the air, because I strongly believe that we should not exploit people and if we could help them quietly and without fuss then we would.

“On its first programme 23 years ago, Xarabank featured a gay man talking about the normality of his family life with his partner. The minute it aired there were immediate calls for boycott, my resignation, groups of people praying for our sins, you name it,” he recalled.

It was always an uphill battle, he said. But they were challenging the status quo by having experts and leaders face people and their experiences. “I’ve been through the wringer and I’ve seen a lot. I believe strongly in my principles and I’m going to keep saying what I have to say,” Azzopardi said.

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