Saviour Balzan gets four slots on TVM as Labour retains control on current affairs

The latest Television Malta schedule published recently is once again rife with the same government-friendly current affairs programmes, despite the rather dismal ratings in the latest market research surveys conducted by the Broadcasting Authority.

Showing an abject lack of creativity and innovation, Public Broadcasting Services has once again turned to MediaToday co-owner Saviour Balzan for the station’s leading current affairs programme, regardless of bad ratings.

Retaining Balzan’s Xtra current affairs programme, which was relegated last season to PBS’ second-tier channel TVM News+, the state broadcaster under the control of the Labour Party in government, has nevertheless continued to pump thousands of euros into Balzan’s pockets.

The decision was taken as the government continues to conceal its contracts with Balzan by launching 40 cases against The Shift’s Freedom of Information requests for the agreements – a move condemned by international press freedom organisations, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, and a European Parliament resolution for the government to drop the cases.

Magistrate Rachel Montebello just this week chastised Balzan for misusing defamation laws in a libel case he filed against veteran journalist Ivan Camilleri.

Despite everything, PBS chose Saviour Balzan over investment in its own newsroom to attract the country’s best journalists to produce its in-house current affairs content.

Balzan has also been exposed as serving ministers through PR contracts, profiting from advising them on countering public outrage. These include his consultancy for former transport minister Ian Borg on the Central Link project and former justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis. More information on his contracts with ministers while claiming to run an independent newspaper remain undisclosed because the government has deployed dozens of lawyers to fend off The Shift’s Freedom of Information requests.

In addition to Balzan’s primetime Xtra talk show, in which he regularly invites ministers and Labour Party propagandists for comfortable discussions, he has been allocated even more programmes that will be financed through Public Service Obligation (PSO) funds.

Complementing his primarily state-sponsored businesses, Business2Business Ltd and Pelagicus Media Ltd, Balzan has been allocated three more additional slots on state television.

Mill-Kamra, a weekly show analysing parliamentary debates, is to be hosted by MediaToday employee and former GWU journalist Albert Gauci Cunningham, while two smaller programmes – l-Etimologija and Vetturi fil-Garage – are also being produced by two MediaToday employees under Balzan’s direction.

While PBS continues to refuse Freedom of Information requests on payments to Saviour Balzan, a glimpse of what Balzan is being paid by PBS can be seen from the latest audited accounts of just one of his companies, Business2Business, for 2021, the year in which the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak.

Although Balzan took a financial hit like the rest of the Maltese media, he still managed to post revenues of €300,000 and a pre-tax profit of nearly €85,000 that year, with most of those profits being derived from government business. Balzan was also allocated public property by the government – intended for manufacturing purposes – at a discounted price of €1 per month.

The accounts of his other two private media and public relations companies, one of which he shares with Gianpula’s boss and former Nationalist Party official Roger De Giorgio, have not yet been published.

Despite Balzan’s dominant position on state television, which has lost many of its most experienced broadcasters over the years, TVM decided to complement its current affairs schedule with two other programmes hosted by other Labour Party sympathisers.

Popolin, another weekly talking heads programme, is hosted by Quintin Scerri, a former Labour mayor and the recipient of various government contracts, while Brian Hansford, a long-time member of the Labour Party’s executive committee, has also had his Realta’ show renewed for another season.

Sources at PBS have told The Shift that, as has happened in the past, TVM’s new current affairs season schedule was not decided upon by its board of directors but, rather,  that the scheduling decisions came straight from the Office of the Prime Minister.


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7 months ago

Saviour Balzan is an opportunist

Last edited 7 months ago by Bamboccu
7 months ago

Lill min taf tistaqsiex ghalieh anzi kundanna kbira li qed juzaw flus il-poplu ghal buthom il-poter, dittatorjali.

7 months ago

Saviour Balzan needs to be given a trashing in his programme where he interrupts continuously and tries to confuse the person being interviewed. When heis totally underwater , he pulls the adverts curtain. The PN persons in Saviour’s programme need to be trained in how to handle him.
Rule 1 : Keep speaking despite his interruptions.
Rule 2: Keep on the message , that you were stopped at , despite being asked another question. If he interrupts , lash back and tell him not to interrupt again.
Rule 3: Tell him that his interruptions are part of his contract, so you pitty him.
Rule 4: Challenge him to another interview.

7 months ago

Another corrupt greedy arse licking troll making hay whilst the sun shines whilst gahan is happy with bread crumbs.

Francis Said
Francis Said
7 months ago

Scheduling came straight from the OPM!!
Someone at the OPM must have an idol. Putin.
What a disgrace. State broadcasting, whilst financed by the state = taxpayers’ funds should be balanced and intelligently informative.

6 months ago

Is Saviour Balzan ‘li ma jhares lejn wicc hadt’ the same person theShift is referring to? I presume no because the Saviour Balzan I know is the one whose journalism is as clean, unbiased and apolitical as that of Manuel Cuschieri’s

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