Taxpayers paid €611,000 for Saviour Balzan’s TV programmes for PBS

Over €600,000 have been used by the state broadcaster to fund various programmes produced by the owner of Malta Today, Saviour Balzan, in just four years, a two-year Freedom of Information battle has revealed.

This is in addition to the tens of thousands the government’s spin doctor is allowed to sell in advertising, using PBS airtime, during his various state-sponsored productions.

Information obtained from PBS following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request shows that between 2018 and 2021, Balzan’s TV programmes were funded by taxpayers to the tune of more than €150,000 a year.

Despite this investment, surveys conducted by the Broadcasting Authority show that Balzan’s programmes never garnered a significant audience, and are only followed by a few thousand viewers.

Taxpayers forked out €611,000 for Balzan’s programmes in four years. Source: Freedom of Information request.

The latest Broadcasting Authority survey for December 2023 listed Balzan’s flagship programme – a political discussion show named ‘Xtra – Ma jħares lejn Wiċċ Ħadd’ – was only mentioned by 0.2% of the TV audience as their favourite programme.

PBS figures show that Balzan’s main TV show received a staggering €266,855 in public funds between 2018 and 2021.

During the years, Balzan also started producing other TV programmes, all on PBS and funded through the annual Public Service Obligation even though some do not meet the criteria for subsidies.

For example, Balzan started producing a cooking show, Gourmet Challenge, which is commercial. Yet PBS somehow classified the programme as “educational” to make it eligible for public funds.

Balzan’s advertising rate card for his state-sponsored programme XTRA on TVM.

So far, PBS only supplied information until 2021, indicating that the subsidies given to Balzan between 2022 and 2024 are still being audited.

During that period, Balzan, through his private business company, Pelagicus Media, continued to be allocated further state-sponsored programmes, including a motor vehicles show – also a commercial production that should not benefit from subsidies.

Ka-ching!

While Balzan’s Media Today, his original newspaper business, which he shares with Gianpula Village owner Roger Degiorgio, continues to be in financial difficulty despite its reliance on government adverts and sponsorships, his private business focused on TV and government PR is going strong.

According to his latest accounts, his private company, Pelagicus Media, made an operating profit of €55,000 in 2022, with revenue, mostly from government contracts, reaching almost €500,000.

This profit is reached after discounting tens of thousands in claimed expenses emanating from trade with his other company producing his newspapers.

Apart from his state-funded TV business, The Shift reported how Balzan has been receiving tens of thousands of government funds through advertising, sponsorships and public relations consultancy contracts he struck with a number of ministries and government agencies in the last decade.

Balzan’s business model, almost entirely based on government handouts, was exposed in court by Keith Schembri – the chief of staff of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.

In 2020, Schembri described Balzan, at the time a friend and collaborator, as more of a lobbyist than a journalist.

“Malta Today editor Saviour Balzan came to me more than once asking for TV programmes. Not once, it was a normal occurrence. He would lobby for certain companies,” Schembri told the court under oath.

                           

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6 Comments
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Wiston Smith
Wiston Smith
19 days ago

It’s fine to spend taxpayers money on Labour propaganda. What is a real waste of money in the eyes of Labourites is the cost of a judge’s inquiry.

Mamo Anthony T
Mamo Anthony T
18 days ago
Reply to  Wiston Smith

The expenditure on the inquiry only happened because government stole over €400 million from the people

Toni Borg
Toni Borg
18 days ago

Saviour Balzan is a leech!!! sticking his dirty fingers where ever there is money to be made.

Independent journalist my foot!!

Anon
Anon
18 days ago

Araw kemm jiehu mill-awtoritajiet l ohra, tipo l-MTA

makjavel
makjavel
18 days ago

Labour Government paid Salvu Balzan €600,000 to ask the right questions and fired Peppi Azzopardi complete with Xarabank for insisting to ask the right questions.

What further proof that Labour Elite are a bunch of cowards , and corrupt to top it up,

jingo
jingo
18 days ago
Reply to  makjavel

Both are not worth a dime for the programming they provide.

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