Saviour Balzan’s ‘XTRA’ to replace ‘Reporter’

The TV programme ‘Reporter’ has been replaced by the current affairs programme ‘XTRA’, which will also be hosted by journalist Saviour Balzan

MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan
MaltaToday managing editor Saviour Balzan

The TV programme ‘Reporter’, which was first screened on TVM in 1999, has been replaced by the current affairs programme ‘XTRA’, which will also be hosted by journalist Saviour Balzan, managing editor at MediaToday, in a new time slot and day.

“The programme is a partnership between TVM and myself, but I will be depending on the support of MediaToday when it comes to features, research and logistics,” Balzan said.

The new programme is expected to present a new look and base many of the themes up for discussion on current affairs, but not only politics.  

‘Reporter’ was first screened in 1999 and started off as a daily hardtalk-style programme on TVM. It was removed in 2004 even though it was shortlisted to replace Bondiplus, then returned in 2006 but was once again removed in 2009.

Xtra is produced in partnership between TVM and Saviour Balzan
Xtra is produced in partnership between TVM and Saviour Balzan

In 2013, it returned on a Monday slot and offered a current affairs reference point before the news.  

In all audience surveys ‘Reporter’ trailed Dissett in popularity but earned a reputation for a no-holds barred, investigative reportage.

“We are adding some new talent in the new series. Everything will be changing. I have every intention to continue to place the televiewer’s aspirations and interests before everything else. But it is not competing with any programme. I should say that in 17 years of broadcasting I was never, ever found in default by the Broadcasting Authority for biased or unfair reportage. I hope it remains that way,” Balzan added.

“I had discussed this programme beforehand with Anton Attard and continued the final discussions with the new CEO, John Bundy. Unlike what is perceived out there, there were never any intrusions in my choice of subjects or questions. There is a protocol I follow with the TVM head of news, Reno Bugeja. He gives his advice on content, but he does not gag or prompt me with editorial direction or spin. For example I debated the Panama Papers on TV more than any other presenter and never once was I told to change the topic.”

On the removal of other competing programmes such as Times Talk, he said: “I can understand how they are feeling at the moment.  I was axed more than once in the past. As usual the justification is always unclear. There was no outcry then but I strongly believe that State broadcasting needs that quantum jump of different voices with differing views and different platforms, to promote debate. As long as there is diversity it should never be a problem.

“It is not going to be easy for the two political parties to sit down and see the bigger picture, more so if they have their political stations.  But we owe it to the public to address this problem once and for all. 

Balzan added that in 2013 he tried to get things moving by talking to Simon Busuttil and Joseph Muscat, but nothing came of it. “Even though it is not as blatant as in the days of Lou Bondì, I am still optimistic that State broadcasting can be reformed,” he said. 

Balzan said speculation that he would replace Joe Azzopardi’s Xarabank on Friday evenings was untrue. “Not the case. That is the simple answer. Joe has his own style, which I have no intention of replicating and am not capable of copying. We offer different products and it would be detrimental for PBS to dump him. I have made this very clear in my meetings at PBS. But it is important that we are aware that we all have an expiry date, myself included.”

TVM has also reconfirmed two other programmes, hosted and produced by MediaToday: they are the popular food programme GourmetToday and the psychology and social programme Dwarna.