On Saturday, Malta’s young star Destiny took home a seventh-place finish at Eurovision 2021. While it was Malta’s best result since 2005, the delegation had clearly been aiming for a higher result, with the broadcaster spending months campaigning. Now Maltese government minister Carmelo Abelo has announced that broadcaster TVM‘s Eurovision 2021 budget will undergo an audit. This follows reports in the Maltese media that local broadcaster PBS invested public money on betting agencies.
The Times of Malta reports that an insider flagged Abelo about potential misconduct from Malta’s public broadcaster PBS and its channel TVM. The insider reported that foreign nationals had been given money in exchange to bet on Malta. As a result of this, the insider claims that Malta’s Eurovision 2021 bid rose to the top of the odds. This fact helped to advertise the Maltese entry as the “bookies’ favourite”.
A country’s odds shorten if people bet on its entry. Especially early betters determine much of the premature odds.
Back in April, data from Smarkets revealed that exchanging and trading in Malta’s odds steeply rose shortly before its song reveal. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that there was also genuine fan excitement around the release of Malta’s song.
Reports suggest that PBS invested in promotional campaigns for Eurovision 2021
However, the Times of Malta reports that PBS did not only try to increase its chances by betting. The newspaper claims that the broadcaster also spent money on sponsored content for social media influencers.
In the lead up to Eurovision, several people noticed that large news sites published paid editorials about Malta’s entry, including LGBT+ news site PinkNews, Romanian newspaper Ziarul Financiar and several other European tabloids. Most of these outlets tagged the articles as “sponsored content”.
Several foreign celebrities also showed support for the entry. For example, German singer Cascada used the Maltese promotional hashtag #destinedforgreatness in an Instagram post, promoting the entry.
The Maltese delegation started an ad promotion campaign on social media which did not go past unnoticed in the Eurovision fan community. In a Twitter ad, it told users to vote for the Maltese entry. This advertisement gave the exact instructions on how to vote on Malta in the native language of the location of the receiver.
Some YouTube users also found they were served Destiny’s entire semi-final performance of “Je me casse” as a pre-roll advertisement.
In 2016, Maltese journalists also called for an investigation after reports surfaced that the budget for Eurovision had been increased multiple times. PBS denied this request then.
Minister Abelo has announced that the audit and investigation will be launched by next Monday.