Kyiv 2017

Head of Reference Group speaks out on sanctions, organisational issues, political rivalries and more

Today, published an interview with Frank-Dieter Freiling who is the chairman of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group. In the interview, Freiling speaks openly about several key issues following last month’s contest in Kyiv. In addition, he looks ahead to what changes will be made ahead of the contest travelling to Portugal this time next year. The issues discussed are the following:

  • Sanctions towards Ukraine and Russia following the selection of and subsequent travel ban for Julia Samoylova.
  • How this situation compares to similar rule-breaks by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Spain in the past.
  • Organisational issues ahead of the contest and the show Kyiv put on for its European audience.
  • What would happen if smaller countries such as Moldova and San Marino won the contest in terms of hosting.
  • Changes regarding EBU influence looking ahead to Portugal’s hosting in 2018.

Ukraine and Russia incident will “not be without consequence”

Asked whether Ukraine should’ve acted more generously towards Julia Samoylova and lifted the travel ban, Freiling explains that the situation in his opinion was a “propaganda campaign on both sides”. He says that the Ukrainians had managed to “manoeuvre” themselves into a Russian “media trap”. In the end they had the extremely difficult decision of deciding against the wishes of the majority of its own population or deciding against its “international partners” that are involved with the Eurovision Song Contest.

Freiling explains that the EBU did threaten sanctions immediately upon the revelation of the travel ban. However, the broadcaster was powerless to overturn a decision made by the national government and security services. Nevertheless, Freiling states that it was written in an agreement between Ukraine and the EBU shortly after they were awarded hosting rights that all “artists, journalists and fans msut be able to enter”. Therefore, their misconduct “must” be punished.

So what sanctions will Ukraine and Russia face? Freiling explains this will all be decided at the next Reference Group meeting on June 12th. Nevertheless, “these incidents will not be without consequences”.

“High fines” were given to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Spain for previous rule-breaks went on to compare the Ukraine and Russia situation with rule-breaks in previous contests by the likes of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Spain.

In 2012, Armenia withdrew from the Eurovision Song Contest. This was just over two months prior to the contest taking place in neighbouring Baku. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the middle of an ongoing difficult diplomatic situation and security concerns were just one of several reasons why Armenia felt unable to participate. The EBU later imposed a fine on AMPTV for their late withdrawal from the contest.

Three years earlier, TVE broadcaster the second semi-final of the 2009 contest on tape delay despite being the semi-final in which the country had to vote. TVE were committed to broadcasting the entirety of the Madrid Tennis Open which overran. The EBU later announced that TVE would face sanctions for their actions during the 2009 contest.

Freiling states that when rule-breaks have occurred in the past, such as in the instances above, “high fines” were imposed by the EBU. Therefore, there is no reason why the rule-breaks made by Ukraine and Russia this year will go unnoticed.

Kyiv put on a “good show” but there was “not much to remember”‘s interview began by asking Freiling on his opinions regarding the show in Kyiv. He explains that he thought it was a “good show” and the fact that Portugal won both the jury vote and the televote was a good result for everyone. However, the shows themselves were less “articulate” than those in Stockholm or Vienna. In addition, he says that the three presenters did not provide “much to remember”.

The reasons for this are “difficult to name” according to Freiling, but due to the organisational issues in the months leading up to the contest, a lot had to be done in a short space of time. Therefore, Freiling believed that there was “no time to develop greater creative potential”.

All broadcasters, no matter how small, “agree to the principle of hosting” if they win

Following Moldova finishing in an exceptional third place in Kyiv, people have raised the question as to how it is possible for Europe’s smallest broadcasters “to host the expensive and demanding television project that is the Eurovision Song Contest”. Freiling explains that upon registering to enter a contest that they can host the festival in the case of victory.

He goes on to explain that it will never be the case that only Europe’s largest broadcasters will be able to host Eurovision. It is a “sacred principle” of the contest that countries can and will host following a victory.

EBU to be “more involved” in the lead-up to Portugal 2018

After the issues in the lead-up to Ukraine’s hosting of the contest, Freiling states that a consequence of this is that the “EBU will be more involved in the preparation of a Eurovision Song Contest” in the future. In addition, he says that it is not yet guaranteed that Lisbon will host the contest. This is despite previous reports stating otherwise. While it is “quite possible” that Lisbon will be the host city, the Reference Group “insist” on a city bidding process.

You can read the full interview with Frank-Dieter Freiling with here, in German.

Are you glad to see the Reference Group being open on these issues? Furthermore, what do you think the outcomes will be following the next meeting in a couple of weeks time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and via our social media channels @ESCXTRA!

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

Comments on Head of Reference Group speaks out on sanctions, organisational issues, political rivalries and more

  • Richard A Stegman Jr

    Will they discuss the geoblocking of the 2016/17 shows from the internet for the US,Canada and other countries that were affected and make sure the blocking doesn’t continue with the 2018 show and beyond?

  • Hans

    Was that geoblocking or Logo blocking?

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