Saviour Balzan got direct order to market Film Commissioner Johann Grech

Saviour Balzan, the co-owner of Malta Today and presenter at TVM, part of the state broadcaster PBS, received €10,000 to market Film Commissioner Johann Grech shortly after he appeared on one of his state-funded shows.

The Shift sent several Freedom of Information requests related to Grech’s spending, and data sent in response shows that in May 2021, Grech personally approved an almost €10,000 direct order for his “marketing campaign” to Business 2 Business Ltd, a company owned solely by Balzan.

Just one month before the direct order was approved, Grech was a guest on Balzan’s show ‘Xtra – Ma jhares lejn wicc hadd’ and during the interview, he described him as “the person who was working very hard to attract films to Malta.”

Johann Grech announcing his ‘interview’ on TVM with Saviour Balzan

It is unknown whether the €10,000 payment made to Balzan a month after the interview was connected to the marketing campaign he was asked to carry for the Malta Film Commission.

According to the PBS code of ethics, Balzan is not allowed to receive payments for interviews he conducts as a journalist on the state broadcaster, and any interests should be declared.

Balzan did not indicate that the interview or appearance was sponsored during the programme.

Meanwhile, PBS pays Balzan thousands of euros per week for his programme despite its low ratings. Requests to publish Balzan’s contracts with the state broadcaster have been turned down.

Grech has been a regular guest on Balzan’s current affairs programmes on PBS. Balzan currently produces four different programmes on PBS, all state-funded.

Grech used to run a small marketing agency in Gozo before being appointed as the marketing manager of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat. Then, in 2015, he was appointed to the position of film commissioner despite having little experience in the film industry.

Since then, Grech has been involved in several controversies, particularly over how he spends public funds in breach of public procurement and good governance rules.

Aside from running Malta Today and other private media ventures, Balzan has received millions of euro from government ministries and agencies to act as their public relations consultant.

The Shift requested information from all state entities on spending and contracts given to Balzan and his associated entities, but all were refused. The Data Commissioner then ruled the information should be handed over, leading to the government launching 40 legal challenges against The Shift’s Founder and Managing Editor, Caroline Muscat, locking The Shift in a costly and lengthy legal process.

To date, The Shift has won all its cases in the appeals court, yet, in most cases, the government remains reluctant to hand over the information in defiance of the commissioner, the court, and the law.

Balzan is also a key figure behind the newly set up Association of Media Owners, which aims to lobby the government on various matters related to funding of the media sector. The initiative has been criticised locally and internationally for sidelining independent media and inviting political parties, including the government, to the table.

                           

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5 Comments
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makjavel
makjavel
2 months ago

I guess Saviour Balzan was marketing Johann Grech’s underwear sterilizer.

ivan Grech Mintoff
2 months ago

Saviour Balzan. Kastilja’s equivalent to Nipper, His Master’s Voice (HMV) obedient dog mascot…

Sim72
Sim72
2 months ago

He was campaign manager for John Dalli’s leadership bid. Enough said.

Joseph
Joseph
2 months ago

Mmmmm kullhadd jithanzer imbarra gahan forsi bil-karawett.. taf kemmilhom jitnejku biek gahan dawn l’ahhar 10 snin u fuqhom

carmelo borg
2 months ago

KULJUM B Xİ SKANDLU
POPOLİN KOKA TAHT İL MEJDA JİLQA İL FRAK.
NAHSEB DAWN İ İSKANDLİ GHANDHKOM TAQALBUHOM GHAL MALTİ.

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