The national public broadcaster will not air Malta’s participation in the European Water Polo Championship this week after a breakdown in negotiations and licensing, which internal sources claim is due to internal mismanagement.
The European championships will be held between 4 and 16 January, with Malta competing with 15 other nations. Television rights to broadcast the event must be negotiated with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) before any matches can be aired on TV channels such as PBS’s TVM Sports.
PBS journalists contacted by The Shift directed questions to Sports Chief Officer Peter Cossai.
When contacted on 30 December, less than a week before the event, Cossai claimed PBS was still “evaluating” whether or not to broadcast it, refusing to divulge further details.
When contacted later, Cossai directed questions to his email address. No response has been received at the time of publication.
Sources who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity claimed it is now far too late for negotiations with the EBU, which should have been completed well ahead of the event. They claimed a PBS crew would not be filming at the event and that rights for live broadcasting had not been settled.
It is understood live broadcasting rights for the water polo championships would have cost PBS some €18,000. This is the first time PBS will not screen the matches live.
Questions sent to PBS Chairman Mark Sammut, asking for the reasons behind the decision not to broadcast, remain unanswered. Sammut also refused to answer questions on Cossai’s position as Sports Chief Officer and the qualifications which led to his unannounced appointment.
While working at PBS for over 20 years, Cossai has faced criticism after the publication of a video in which he performs a mock sports broadcast praising disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s political victories while on a work assignment in San Marino.
Sammut’s administration of the public broadcaster has been widely criticised for its lack of transparency and for his unprecedented double remuneration, netting him more than €130,000 per year. Sammut was appointed executive chairman by Prime Minister Robert Abela in 2021.
Last month, The Shift reported how the National Audit Office found the state broadcaster had continued to register massive financial losses. The audit found that despite an annual government subsidy of €6 million, the broadcaster is losing money in every division except radio, with millions owed to it in advertising fees.