The decision to drop the Malta Eurovision winning song Chameleon in favour of as-yet-unheard number Walk on Water has sparked controversy among Eurovision enthusiasts, who claim this year’s contest was a ‘sham’.

PBS chief executive Anton Attard. Photo: Darrin Zammit LupiPBS chief executive Anton Attard. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

On Monday, the Public Broadcasting Services – the local organisers responsible for all contest decisions – announced that come May, Ira Losco would not be performing the song that was chosen at January’s festival.

Instead, the 34-year-old singer would be taking to the stage in Stockholm with the new song, chosen by a jury made up of foreign professionals.

While the only detail available so far was the song’s name, many fans of the contest have taken to social media complaining about the unprecedented turn of events.

Disgruntled fans who voted for the winning song said that, in light of the latest decision, the contest held in January was nothing but a ‘sham’ and they had voted for Chameleon as they believed it had the necessary qualities to make it to the top spot.

Others lambasted the decision, claiming they would not have spent money on voting if they had known this would only contribute to choosing the singer. Some even called on PBS to refund the money paid for televoting, saying they would not vote in the future.

Another issue irking enthusiasts was that they were not able to hear any of the other songs and that the selection process had not been disclosed to the public.

Walk on Water, being formally launched tomorrow during the national broadcaster’s evening news bulletin, was chosen by juries in 13 European countries who listened to 10 new songs. These included Chameleon and nine new compositions.

According to PBS, Walk on Water was the overwhelming favourite to represent Malta in Stockholm. The video for Ms Losco’s new song was filmed last week at the Malta National Aquarium and in different locations in Gozo.

The song was officially submitted to the European Broadcasting Union before last weekend’s deadline.

Rumours that the organisers had been contemplating modifying parts of Chameleon, or even changing it completely, had been circulating since Ms Losco’s win.

These were then further fuelled by comments by European Broadcasting Union supervisor Jan Ola Sand, who during a visit to Malta told the national broadcaster that this year the festival intended to provide a stage for the artist rather than the song.

In a Facebook post following Monday’s announcement, Ms Losco’s manager, Howard Keith Debono, acknowledged the negative criticism surrounding the PBS decision and said it would “take time to change a mind set which is used to doing things one way”.

“I’m glad that we took on the challenge that the rules permitted us and that many other countries have also taken up,” Mr Debono wrote.

In replies given to this news­paper, PBS chief executive Anton Attard said: “PBS has adopted a procedure which is in line with both the local and EBU festival regulations. We will be explaining the process adopted in detail this Friday.”

Mr Attard also pointed out that “the process adopted was very intensive, involving local and foreign juries and music professionals. Local singers were advised about this process, and it has also been an integral part of the festival regulations for the last couple of years.”

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