Minister Carmelo Abela did not respond to The Shift’s questions about research that called public broadcasting a “state-controlled medium”. It comes after Abela claimed that TVM has been broadcasting a more diverse range of opinions since 2013.
In a maintenance with the Malta Independent on Sunday, Abela claimed that the nationalist party had “built a narrative” intended to discredit the public broadcasting services (PBS), under which TVM and all of TVM’s sub-channels fall.
In a separate note, but in the same interview, Abela also argued that an unpublished internal audit – which was supposed to be put in place to verify whether authorities had misused taxpayer dollars to improve the chances of Malta to win the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year – has established that no evidence of inappropriate spending has been found.
Another point of self-praise for Abela during the interview included claims that PBS was in good financial health despite reports suggesting otherwise.
One of the questions that Abela’s official spokesperson chose not to answer or acknowledge was about The Shift’s previous report on how the Center for Media, Data and Society described PBS as being controlled by The Shift. State because of its dependence on the State in terms of funding, governance structure, ownership and editorial control.
The Media Pluralism Report, released in July this year, echoed similar sentiments, assigning a 92% risk score to public broadcasting in Malta on its independence from the governance of public service media and the funding indicator, up nine percentage points from the 2020 score of 83%.
The Shift also published a survey on the financial health of PBS. The investigation revealed that PBS’s financial difficulties had worsened under Abela’s leadership. The latest audited accounts for the year ending September 2020 show that PBS ended the year with € 3.8m more in liabilities than assets, meaning it is effectively insolvent.
This disastrous situation occurred despite a significant increase in government subsidies, which reached 5.5 million euros in 2020, i.e. 1.4 million euros more than the 4.1 million euros already injected from public coffers to PBS in 2019.
During the interview with The Independent, the minister described the growing amount of taxpayer money pumped into PBS as a way to achieve the government’s ‘vision’, distracting from the fact that it was necessary to counteract the government’s ‘vision’. the way the state broadcaster’s finances were bleeding.
Abela also said that PBS made a profit of € 1million in 2020, a defense oft-repeated when PBS’s finances are called into question, a defense that fails to recognize both the imbalance between the liabilities and the active as well as the fact that numbers close to the Labor Party have practically monopolized prime time on PBS.
As for the question of the Eurovision Song Contest, the news which were later confirmed by Abela’s decision to open an investigation, had said € 650,000 had been spent to promote Malta’s entry into the competition, with internal ministry reports suggesting that part of the astronomical budget was allocated to placing bets on Malta to manipulate odds.
However, the minister did not respond to questions about why the report’s findings were not released, who carried out the audit and how it was carried out, while failing to comment generally on why he was deemed necessary to spend this kind of money in the first place. .