The voting arrangements of the Eurovision Song Contest have always been the climax of the show. Meanwhile judgement of songs causes increasingly international dissonances. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Azerbaijan found themselves compelled to intervene in 2013, and Turkey has completely withdrawn already in 2012. Allegations of distortion of competition and manipulations of all kinds are going arround. More and more ESC evokes a sentiment of war in Europe. And as this issue is still left to yellow press nothing will improve.
In 2013 EBU (Eurovision Broadcasting Union) advertised that they optimized its regulations for the 59th edition of the ESC in 2014. With concepts of "strictness" and "transparency" they wanted to eliminate any doubts. One year later 2 countries demonstrated ironcally, that the rules are not suitable for a music competition. Now EBU is challanged to position itself with a clear statement for or against their own rules. Will EBU now take their own strict rules seriously and really block some countries for years? I cannot believe.
I have looked closely to the rules and would like to comment on it in 3 parts. As a blogger my opportunities of research are limited, so some questions will remain.
Point 1.1.1. "A maximum of 46 countries shall be allowed to participate." Have all these 46 members a say and do they get same information, do they have same capacities and resources? Or have they to buy a pig in a poke? You do not get information about how and by whom these rules came about. Several times it is referred to the reference group. Should this group have the power to make decisions, its constitution seems not to be balanced and not representative for all participating countries:
Dr. Frank -Dieter Freiling, Germany, Chairman
Jon Ola Sand, Norway, Executive Supervisor
Pernille Gaardbo, Denmark, executive producer, produces the ESC 2014
(Martin Dahl Austria, Sweden, Executive Producer, has produced the ESC 2013.
next contest will take place in Austria, I suppose that instead of
Pernille Gaardbo currently a member of Austria will come to the group)
Christer Björkman, Sweden, ?
Thomas Schreiber, Germany , ?
Aleksander Radic, Slovenia, ?
Nicola Caligiore, Italy, ?
In my opinion the reference group lacks representatives of different generations, it lacks independent representatives who stand up for the interests of audience and musicians, it lacks representatives from Southern and Eastern European countries. Above all it lacks regular representatives from Non-Nato-Countries so as Russia, Serbia or Azerbaijan.
In the introduction it is stated that "The Eurovision Song Contest is an international coproduction by EBU members." This sentence indicates joint financing but again it fails with the transparency . There are, at least in this brochure no information on the financing. During my research in internet I always got different figures. The fact is that ESC is a matter of a lot of money. In addition participating countries must bear the costs for the musical contribution, for promotion, travel and accommodation of their delegation. This raises big problems for some broadcasters.
In less financially strong countries the artists have to pay part of the cost. In Germany everything is paid by obligatory fee for public radio and tv (Rundfunkgebühren). Everything? Did German fee payers have to finance most extensive star promo in pop history of the post-war period for the niece of politician Nicolas Meyer Landrut (FDP)? Intend and purpose were never questioned, public was never asked to permit.
As far as I am informed each country must pay a six-figure fee. A higher participation fee pay the so-called Big-5 countries France, Spain, Great Britain, Italy and Germany. Therefore they have a save starting place in the final. A safe starting place in the final also has the organizing country (last year's winner), because their broadcaster has to dig deep into the pockets to provide the show. The rule, that the winner has to organize the contest in the following year is a killer rule for poor countries.
Obviously the Big-5 countries undermine the competition with money because they buy good final places (from the license fee). In the rules, the final places of Big-5 are guaranteed without further
explanation: "There shall be six guaranteed places, one for the host broadcaster, [ ...] and five EBU members from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and UK. [...] Apart from the six broadcasters with guaranteed places, all participating broadcasters from a maximum of 40 countries shall compete in one of the Semi-Finals for the remaining 20 places in the final."
In section 1.2 the criteria of songs are described. They must not be longer than 3 minutes. And "[Songs] must not have been commercially released before 1 September [one year before]." Should this rule be broken, has "Executive Supervisor authority to evaluate whether the composition is eligible..." Until now the contribution had to be set to a specific deadline, after this deadline any
changes were forbidden. Is this rule canceled? Changes after the deadline were previously punished with high fines.
In general the EBU should optimize its management of information instead of their "rules". Concerning finanzing and constitution the rules raise more questions than they answer. This lack of information is not consistent with terms such as transparency and justice.
Furhtermore the reference group isn't well balanced. The concept of competition by reference group favors the interests of a small group. The Big-5-rule by which countries can buy places in the final is cowardly and unfair. Even if one assumes a financial generosity of these countries, this rule is still a self-deception on their own audience. At first glance this evokes an image of success and popularity but strictly speaking audience in these countries are faked with untrue statistics and buyed places which they even have to pay.