Updated 9.17am, adds GO comment

Melita and Go TV service providers had no option but to block Euro 2020 football matches because the national broadcaster acquired the territorial rights to broadcast the matches on its platforms.

PBS chairman Mark Sammut has clarified Euro 2020 matches can only be broadcast on TVM after Public Broadcasting Services acquired the exclusive rights for the Maltese territory, amid a wave of protests from football fans. 

He said PBS paid hundreds of thousands of euros to obtain the rights from UEFA but was providing the service to Maltese viewers for free as part of the public service obligation as the pubic broadcaster. Sammut said even restaurants, bars and clubs in Malta are legally obliged to broadcast matches on PBS stations. 

When UEFA awarded the rights contract to PBS, it specifically told the broadcaster that matches would be geo-blocked. Broadcasters like Italy's RAI, which are accessible to Maltese subscribers, are also transmitting the matches.

Sammut said had PBS not asked the television service providers to block the game on other stations, it would have faced large fines, running into millions of euros. 

A spokesman for Melita said the company received a request from PBS, as the holders of exclusive rights for the Euro 2020 TV broadcasts for Maltese territory, to block feeds coming from RAI.

“Although we were aware that this might be of inconvenience for some of our viewers, Melita had to comply with this request,” a spokesman for Melita said when contacted.  

Similarly, a spokesperson for GO said it was "simply a matter of content rights and broadcasting regulations".

"Only PBS has the exclusive rights to broadcast the UEFA games in Malta and hence, upon instructions by PBS, GO had to block such content on RAI," she said.

The move made football fans fume on Saturday night after they found out that the much-anticipated Euro 2020 knock-out match between Italy and Austria on RAI had been blocked. 

Just before the game started, a notice on RAI said the service had been temporarily suspended "due to PBS rights" and re-directed viewers to TVM. 

Across social media, the move was met with dismay by football fans, some of whom expressed a preference for the Italian commentary and studio team over the package offered by PBS. 

"PBS might have rights, but we pay for RAI too," one fan said, echoing a number of similar complaints. 

RAI service was restored in time for post-match coverage after the hard-fought game, which Italy won 2-1 after extra time to book a place in the quarter-finals.

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