A mini-documentary series on former prime minister Dom Mintoff has been scrapped by the national broadcaster for fear of a backlash from Nationalist viewers.
The PBS board decided not to broadcast a four-part documentary series on the life of the Labour political icon after some of its members felt it would not sit well with viewers who are sensitive about the Mintoff years, Times of Malta has learnt.
The documentary, which was produced externally by private production company I Vision and was commissioned and funded by the Foundation for National Celebrations (FCN) and Arts Council Malta to mark 10 years since Mintoff’s death.
PBS sources said the documentary had been approved by an editorial review panel which found the production to offer a “balanced and well-researched” take on the life of the controversial political figure.
However, earlier this month, members of the PBS board raised concerns that including a documentary on such a prominent Labour figure in its upcoming programming schedule without counterbalancing it against a similar production on a Nationalist personality would not sit well with PN-leaning viewers.
“A decision was taken to hold off on running the documentary because we felt we would get a lot of negative feedback from certain people. It seems whatever we do, we get criticised one way or another,” a member of the board told Times of Malta.
Another PBS source described the decision as “ridiculous”.
“If a production is balanced and presents both sides of the life of the subject, then why not allow it to be shown and let people reach their own conclusions?” the source said.
A decision was taken to hold off on running the documentary because we felt we would get a lot of negative feedback from certain people. It seems whatever we do, we get criticised one way or another
The PN and PL have for years been at loggerheads over the content aired on PBS, with both parties often reporting cases of so-called imbalance to the Broadcasting Authority. But the members of the BA are composed of representatives of the PN and PL, rendering the process highly political.
Questions sent to PBS chairman Mark Sammut were not replied to by the time of going to print.
Alan Paul Mizzi, who produced the documentary, declined to comment when contacted, saying only that he had been informed that his production would not feature in the upcoming PBS winter schedule. He said he was not informed of the reason behind the decision.
His production company has been involved in a number of documentaries aired on the national broadcaster on the lives of prominent Maltese figures, from former president Agatha Barbara, writer and academic Oliver Friggieri, publisher Mabel Strickland, and Malta’s first prime minister Joseph Howard.
Mizzi has also produced recurring programmes on PBS, including Ilsienna, a popular show on Maltese language and etymology, which has run for four consecutive years.
Liam Gauci who heads the FCN said he had not formally been informed of PBS’s decision and so had no comment to make at this time.
A firebrand politician and four-time prime minister, Mintoff is arguably the most controversial figure in Malta’s political history. He is both revered as a great social reformer by his acolytes and abhorred by his critics as an enabler of violence and grave political injustice.
This is not the first time that work covering the life of the former Labour leader has faced hurdles to make it to the public.
Last year, the author of a controversial Mintoff biography had said he had been asked to rewrite or censor sensitive passages about the former prime minister’s personal life but refused to do so.
Mark Montebello, a Dominican friar and historian, had been approached to edit out sections of the book and had even been asked to self-censor by a number of people.
Mintoff’s daughters Anne McKenna and Yana Mintoff both dissociated themselves from the book, which they insist is “riddled with inaccuracies, factual distortions, unsubstantiated allegations, hearsay and lies”.