Malta's participation in the Eurovision costs €400,000, of which 10 per cent comes directly from the taxpayer and the rest is forked out by commercial sponsors.

In a judicial protest filed yesterday by the Public Broadcasting Services against former Eurosong chairman Grace Borg, PBS quantified the cost, which is almost as much as the Church spent on the Pope's visit.

The information, posted online, immediately prompted a chorus of disapproval from many readers who complained about it being a waste of public money.

When asked for more details, acting PBS CEO Natalino Fenech said the cost had so far reached about €306,000 and the total expenses would be quantified after the Eurovision contest was over.

He said the production of the local contest cost €124,000 alone, while €75,000 were required for promotional tours and expenses in connection with the Eurovision delegation.

Membership of the European Broadcasting Union and the participation fee of the contest amounted to €80,000 and the rest of the money was spent on promotional material and satellite transmission charges.

Mr Fenech said that, although some items could be sponsored, these would be bartered against advertising air time, "which is effectively a cost for PBS".

However, former PBS chairman Clare Thake Vassallo, who had said in an interview that the Eurovision only costs taxpayers 10c each, stressed that the funds came mostly from sponsorship packages.

"The government gives €40,000 but this is not enough to organise the contest and to send the participant and the delegation. So the sponsors give us the money we need and, in return, we give them the visibility they are seeking. That way everyone benefits."

Meanwhile, Malta's contestant had her first rehearsals on the Oslo stage yesterday.

She looked nervous at first but her excitement did not affect her vocal performance, prompting journalists to describe her voice as "surprisingly mature".

The young dreamer, whose Eurovision experience is being overshadowed by a law suit filed against her by her former manager, Ms Borg, seemed to be in high spirits as her "simple" performance went well.

The only glitch was that a door was left open backstage, causing a draft that changed the direction of the dry ice and momentarily forced her to stop singing.

"It became flash news all over Europe but, really, it's no big deal," Thea said, joking about how fast the news spread all over fan sites.

Everything has been kept quite simple on stage, where Thea is supported by three powerful backing singers, a male dancer dressed as a seagull, and cool atmospheric lighting, mainly blues and greys, until the stage explodes in pyrotechnics at the end of the song.

The only surprise left is the dress that Thea will wear on Tuesday's semi-final night, which she says would be kept simple and similar to the one she wore at the Eurosong final.

Despite being one of the youngest and most unnoticed performers of this year's competition, the girl with the Liza-Minelli look attracted a sizeable crowd of journalists and photographers to yesterday's press conference.

There she explained that she was born on the day that Mary Spiteri placed third in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest. She added that her song was written by the same team that had "discovered" Chiara, who represented Malta three times.

She also described the concept behind dressing dancer Jes Sciberras as a big seagull, saying that seagulls were birds that kept flying no matter what was thrown at them, which linked to her song's message of chasing one's dreams despite the odds.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us