Eurovision 2021: Malta-Gate at PBS?

by Stefano Casellini 8,204 views

Waters around Rotterdam are still boiling. Barely out of the storm around a possible drug consumption in the green room by the lead singer of Maneskin, something is going on in the Mediterranean island of Malta. How much is the national broadcaster involved in this year’s betting odds and could this have possible political implications?

We will be talking about the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest for a while more. The spending of  Maltese public broadcaster PBS will be soon under investigation. There were reports that taxpayer funds were used to boost their own entry in the betting odds.

It all began with the poor result in the televote of last Saturday’s Grand Final of Destiny‘s Je me casse. The 47 points and a fourteenth place out of 26 contestants did not go down well to Malta’s Minister Carmelo Abela. He has ordered an audit of expenditure into the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 after reports showed that parts of the budget had been in fact used to place bets on Je me casse in order to artificially inflate the odds with bookmakers.

Malta Tourism Authority also implicated

The Maltese public broadcaster PBS, which is in Abela’s portfolio, would not be the only author of this misuse of taxpayers’ money. The Malta Tourism Authority is also known to have spent some 350’000 euros in the promotion of Destiny’s song.

The audit will begin next Monday 31 May. There would already be an informal admission that part of the budget bound for Eurovision marketing had been used on financing foreign national’s bets on Je me casse to win the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. This Malta-gate could have serious political consequences, as voices have been raised for Abela to resign.

Throughout the season Malta was among the top favourites for the victory in Rotterdam. The attention that Eurofans give to the betting odds contributed to the fact that Malta won the 2021 OGAE international network poll. However, this apparent enthusiasm for the song vanished on stage at Rotterdam Ahoy. Malta finished fourteenth in the televote with only 47 points. The final seventh place, however, is Malta’s best result since 2005.

A similar case in 2016

Something similar was going on in 2016 when Ira Losco represented the island in Stockholm, Sweden. Back then Times of Malta had filed a Freedom of Information request in order to obtain a full breakdown of all spending by the public broadcaster. This request followed reports of a “limitless” budget allocation in order to boost Walk on water in betting odds. The request was turned down.

The trajectories of Malta in 2016 and 2021 present similarities. Both songs skyrocketed in the betting odds after they were revealed. They both had similar finishes in the jury vote and in the audience in their respective Grand Finals. Ira Losco and Destiny were together in responding to criticism after the latter went on stage for the first rehearsal in Rotterdam raising a wave of negative comments on her outfit. In was later revealed that Ira Losco was part of the Maltese jury at the 2021 Eurovision.

How serious are these allegations? Are we really facing a Malta-gate? What is the potential impact on Malta’s presence in Eurovision?

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