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PBS could be run by 90 full timers

By Ray Abdilla

"The Public Broadcasting Services, PBS could be run by 90 full time employees. No one will be fired from PBS but something has to be done quickly, at least by the end of this year. PBS can’t continue to lose any more money."

This is communicated to The Malta Financial & Business Times by a member of the Task Force, which is comprised of Chairman Anthony Tabone, Deputy Chairman Tony Mallia and Members of the Board, Michael Fenech, Charles Xuereb and Dr Claire Vassallo Thake.

They have prepared a report, which is expected to be handed to the Minister of Education, Louis Galea.

The Public Broadcasting Services is, at the moment, undergoing a major exercise to put the Nation’s media station in a position where it can sustain itself and to ensure that modern concepts are introduced for the organisation to be in a position to offer the best service on the island.

The PBS Board believes that there may be some resistance from the older members of staff to such radical changes.

Similar to what has taken place in other governmental and private entities, some of the old guard – i.e. people who are over 50 years of age are unable or are unwilling to change their system of work.

Since Malta is a Member of the Council of Europe, the laws of the media in Malta are based on European Law. There are some, who do not agree with certain aspects of this law, but in today’s world one cannot afford not to move forward.

Media, especially television is changing continuously. The Public Broadcasting Services has to finally realise that there are now other players in the field. What PBS is accomplishing today, the other stations are achieving with less human resources.

Media pluralism in Malta started in 1993. It was good news, but in some ways the level of public broadcasting has dropped.

The broadcasting media started off as a monopoly, given the subsidies needed and this happened both under Redifussion and Xandir, when the Parastatal Corporation, Telemalta controlled the station.

When liberalisation was brought about, PBS had to face stiff competition from political stations and other commercial ones, not only from the local market but also from abroad.

The advertising cake was now being shared and everyone had to fight to win a piece. No TV or radio station is getting rich but everyone knows that one has to fight to survive. Many doubt on how much the majority are even breaking even.

In the past, PBS was the only place for announcers, producers and DJs but now there is more competition.

All the stations, including PBS have invested in new equipment, but unfortunately many of the PBS workers are not confident with the equipment.

Today there are 193 full time workers at PBS, 30 less than in 1993. The average age is 46. There are 35 people who are over 55, 43 who are over 50, 34, over 45, 22 who are over 40 and only 14 who are under 25. Eight of them are under 30.

33 per cent of the workforce are over 45 years and only seven per cent are under 30.

There is also the problem of hiring people. This can only be done through the Employment Training Corporation. There are no people registering for work in the journalistic field, so how can one find journalists? The other stations, who are free to do what they like, can easily snatch some of PBS journalists and that causes more problems for the national station.

The problem is that other stations can "poach" employees. PBS is not in a position to do this.

Pressure on the Broadcasting Authority to change some of its policies is also on. Not being able to produce more than 12 minutes continuous advertising is creating problems.

There are many occasions when a booking for more than 12 minutes is made but this can’t be done because of the Broadcasting Authority. PBS spends around Lm1.2 million on salaries. It spends around Lm1.5 million, annually when one includes overtime. Head per head it spends around Lm8,250.

Advertising is enough to provide for wages but then there are other expenses such as films, satellites, electricity and telephone bills.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt