Public Broadcasting Services (PBS)

Public Broadcasting Services (PBS) is the public broadcast operator in Malta. It runs two television channels and three radio channels. PBS was founded in 1975.

Media assets

Television: TVM, TVM2

Radio: Radju Malta, Radju Malta 2, Magic Malta

State Media Matrix Typology: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

PBS is a government-owned company whose main governing body is a Board of Directors who are nominated by the government. Abusing the governing body procedures, the government is exerting undue influence at PBS, according to media experts and independent journalists in Malta. In April 2021, for example, Mark Sammut, an IT entrepreneur without any experience in journalism or broadcasting, was appointed by authorities as executive chairman at PBS. He is known for his connections with the Labour Party in Malta.

Source of funding and budget

PBS is majority funded by the government. There is little transparency around the budget and expenditure at PBS. According to media reports, the state subsidy awarded to PBS has increased over the course of the past years. In 2017, PBS received a state subsidy of €4m, according to the latest data available. PBS also generates funding through sale of advertising time.

The broadcaster is totally non-transparent when it comes to its budget. PBS has constantly failed to release annual reports that would detail how the taxpayer money is spent in spite of obligations to make these reports public that are nailed down in the country’s National Broadcasting Policy. Officials at the broadcasting ministry in Malta said in June 2022 that the information needed to be reported is still being collected.

In January 2021, the government announced plans to award to PBS a total of €30m to spend on non-commercial content over five years starting. That means an annual subsidy of €6m. In spite of requests from media outlets to release information about how it spends public finances, PBS is totally opaque when it comes to accounting for taxpayer funds.

Editorial independence

There are no specific rules imposed by the government on PBS that would require the broadcaster to give privileged coverage to the government. The government, however, indirectly controls the editorial policies of the station. Independent reports about the government control at PBS have abounded in recent years.

There is no domestic statute and no independent assessment and oversight mechanism to validate PBS’ editorial independence.

September 2023