Malta covered the expenses of four countries that participated in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest which the island hosted in 2016, according to former Public Broadcasting Services CEO John Bundy.
The veteran broadcaster, who on Tuesday was awarded €226,000 over his unfair dismissal, told the Industrial Tribunal that during his short tenure at the helm of PBS, he had held a meeting with the European Broadcasting Union’s chair about the contest.
Bundy was informed that according to an agreement reached with PBS chairman Tonio Portughese, Malta was meant to fork out expenses for six countries, if they accepted to participate in the event.
Although Bundy managed to get Malta out of the deal with two countries, it had to cover the participating cost of the other four, to the tune of €24,000.
This was one of the issues of concern that Bundy flagged during tribunal proceedings, where he claimed he only learnt from the media about a unanimous vote of no confidence in him, taken at a directors’ meeting one year into his five-year contract as CEO.
The decision over his dismissal appeared to pivot upon the manner in which Bundy had gone about leasing vehicles to replace the ageing fleet at PBS, but , the tribunal said it was “not convinced” that that was the cause for dismissal.
During his testimony, Bundy also revealed how before the vehicle leasing ordeal, an invoice of €1,477.20 spent on lunches and dinners over just 10 days, landed on his desk on September 28 of 2016.
He also got to know, through the financial controller that a total of €10,000 had been spent on lunches over two years.
Bundy added that during his tenure, he managed to stop a board of directors meeting from taking place at a luxurious Gozo hotel that would have cost thousands of euros. PBS had its own professional board room, he said.
He noted that two similar meetings had been held at the Kempinski Hotel in 2013 and 2014.
In 2013 the expenses were paid through adverts. When he himself had tried to negotiate a similar exchange for a Eurovision reality show, he had been told that such bartering was dirty.
Bundy insisted he could not accept the fact that a one-day meeting costs PBS a €10,000.
Moving political programmes to prime time
The former CEO also spoke of a heated meeting on August 16 of 2017, a few months after the general election. The meeting was about the broadcasting schedule, which had to be approved by the board of directors.
During this meeting, he had protested that political discussion programmes should not be aired right after the news (prime time), adding that PBS, which was already in a financially precarious situation, could lose out on thousands of euros.
He added that none of the presenters – not even Reno Bugeja, a PBS editor and one of the presenters of such programmes – had contested the time slot assigned to them. The only raised issue was over Saviour Balzan’s programme Xtra, who wanted prime time, he claimed.
Despite his disagreement, Bundy said he still went along with the board's decision, although he wrote to the chairman.