In a letter sent to the Tourism Minister, the Prime Minister and the Commissioner for Standards, the Malta Producers Association insisted on the removal of Film Commissioner Johann Grech, saying “any shred of trust” in him has been “completely obliterated”.
This letter was sent after The Shift revealed how the Malta Film Commission was giving foreign producers a select list of companies to work with, excluding others. This, the association said, was clear evidence that the Malta Film Commission has been channelling work to a select few.
Signs of government exerting more control over the private sector were visible a few years ago, the association said: “When the online crew and company directory was removed a few years ago, it gave rise to the suspicion that this was done in order to exert control over the private sector. With Grech at the helm, this is no longer just a suspicion.”
The Shift reported how foreign film companies required to engage a locally registered production company when filming in Malta were being given a list by the Film Commission that limits their choice to seven names, down from a list of 22 companies listed in 2018.
The Producer’s Creative Partnership, one of the companies on the list of seven, said it had received no film work, directly or indirectly, through the Malta Film Commission since 2013. The company supported the call for the list of service providers to be put back online immediately.
The Association said Grech’s behaviour breached competition rules and the ethics of public life. It referred to a statement by the Film Commission in which Grech denied wrongdoing and instead “took the opportunity to list the achievements of the Film Commission in recent years as if this in some way addressed or excused the wrongdoing.”
“Governments come and go but this is how we feed our families and it is a devastating blow to learn that the Film Commission has been interfering in what should be a free market in a democratic EU State.”
The association asked for a meeting to discuss a number of other measures required to ensure a return to a fair, open and transparent system.
“A strong message needs to be sent to the world that this corrupt practice does not represent or reflect Malta, our industry as a whole or its government. The trust that has been built on our collective backs over many years takes only moments to destroy and we ask that you waste no time in taking all steps necessary to get the situation definitively back on track,” the association said in its letter to the government.
The letter was also sent to Ombudsman Anthony Mifsud and the chairperson of the Film Commission Board Beverly Cutajar.