09 November 2005

The Web
Business Today

Austin Gatt admits handpicking PBS news manager

Karl Schembri

Right in the middle of negotiations with Sylvana Cristina to become the PBS news manager, Investments Minister Austin Gatt admitted he would personally stick to his original decision to appoint Times journalist Vanessa Macdonald to the vacant post even though this was shot down by the Prime Minister.
Confirming the extent of ministerial interference in the selection process that was scrapped by the prime minister’s office for being “compromised”, Gatt said in an interview with The Malta Independent last Monday that he believed Macdonald was better for the job.
“Vanessa would have fit in perfectly and I still stand by my first decision to choose her,” he said.
Cristina is in the middle of contract negotiations with the PBS management to take up the post that has remained vacant for the last 18 months, but the process seems to have stalled once again as Gatt’s ministry has not yet given the green light to an agreement.
She was announced as the person for the post by Gatt’s ministry almost a month ago, but since then the contract has failed to materialise, putting into question yet again the messy news manager recruitment process.
Investments Minister Austin Gatt admitted he had excluded candidates short listed by the PBS interviewing board in favour of Macdonald, but his decision was shot down by the prime minister, who argued that the short list could not be bypassed but still scrapped the shortlist completely and approved instead the internal appointment of Cristina, who is currently head of programmes.
“My decision was simple,” Gatt said. “I struck off the list those people who applied from Net TV and Super One” – Roderick Agius and Carmen Sammut, who respectively placed as first and second candidates before Macdonald, “not because I have anything against them but because I thought that this would not have been good for the credibility of the national station. Yes, it’s true that my decision was not backed by my Prime Minister but we don’t agree on everything you know.”
Now, it seems that the ministry is also having thoughts about Cristina. PBS sources say she is demanding a similar package to the one that was about to be given to Times journalist Vanessa Macdonald, in the region of Lm16,000.
One condition Cristina is resisting is a year-long probation that the ministry is keen of imposing on her despite her long experience at the station.
Meanwhile, the PBS editorial board is expected to publish its annual report, which according to sources will be highly critical of the process to appoint a news manager, as well as of the messy restructuring process and budget cuts made under Gatt.


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