Yesterday, the EBU Reference Group, the governing body of the Eurovision Song Contest, announced new tough measures designed to counter attempts to rig the televoting.
Should voting irregularities be detected before, during or after the Contest, procedures will be initiated which could ultimately lead to the relevant national broadcaster being banned from Eurovision for a maximum of three years.
Dr Frank Dieter Felling, chairman of the Reference Group, likened the measures to the situation in football:
“Just as football clubs are in principle accountable for the behaviour of their fans, we will hold – on a case-by-case basis – participating broadcasters accountable and make them responsible to prevent voting irregularities in favour of their entry.”
In an interview with the Guardian, Eurovision Song Contest executive producer Jon Ola Sand revealed that he now believed the Lithuanian video seemingly showing people being offered cash to vote for Azerbaijan to be genuine:
“I was irritated, angry about it. We did the investigation we could, but we don’t have the tools or the methods of the police. We are confident that the broadcaster itself is not involved.”
Sand also stated, in an interview with eurovision.tv, that the attempts to rig the vote were detected by the system and the votes declared invalid.
We at ESCtips broadly welcome this new “get tough” attitude, and I believe it shows the EBU’s determination to ensure the legitimacy of the final result. We wrote at length on the subject last year, when new measures were revealed. Whereas Gavster felt the measures didn’t go far enough, I took the opportunity to defend the EBU. What is now clear is that the onus is now very much on national broadcasters to ensure there are no irregularities. The likes of Azerbaijan and Malta (who have given Azerbaijan 12 points for the last four years in a row) may be feeling slightly uncomfortable.
However, these announcements, for me, raise a couple of interesting questions. Firstly, if last year’s vote-rigging attempts were indeed detected and the votes discarded, are we therefore meant to believe that Farid Mammadov’s second place for Azerbaijan was in fact legitimate? It was certainly the result which raised most eyebrows across Europe.
Secondly, and most importantly, should similar vote-rigging evidence be unearthed this year or in subsequent years, will the EBU actually make use of its new powers? Banning a country for up to three years, at a time when the Contest is shrinking in terms of countries entering, would be a bold move, and one which could provoke reprisals from a banned country’s allies. Not to mention the loss of a participation fee of at least €100 000.
I, for one, hope that we will never have to find out the answer to that second question.