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A couple of days ago the European Broadcasting Union announced that they would tighten measures to ensure voting integrity. I am not going to repeat everything that has been said so feel free to read more HERE as well as an interview with Jon Ola Sand, the Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest. In a nutshell, going forward broadcasters will be held accountable if any voting irregularities are detected. What that means is if there are any cheating attempts in the televote or juries, EBU may issue up to three years of exclusion to the respective broadcaster. We previously talked about this issue and shared some of our thoughts on how to deal with it.

Since that announcement was made public, the social media world has been buzzing and as you can imagine, everyone and their brother has had an opinion on that. I thought it would be interesting to review some of those comments and talk about it some more.

 

ParadiseES (on the ESC United Forum: What would happen if some country/group/whatever try to cheat in favor of a certain country just because they want that country to get that punishment? It’s complicated.
Reference Group Chairman Dr Frank Dieter Freiling said that broadcasters are made responsible to prevent any voting irregularities on a case-by-case basis. Sabotaging another country by creating  faux cheating may not be impossible, but it would be a rather elaborate process and unlikely. This is why the EBU was very specific that every case would be reviewed and judgment calls will have to be made in those cases. Plus those groups are aware that they are putting “their” country in danger cause they could easily get disqualified themselves so it’s unlikely they’d take that risk. In addition, a sanctioned broadcaster also has the right to an appeal procedure to the Television Committee and the EBU’s Executive Board.

anto475 (ESC United Forum): This seems a bit watery, there’s definitive proof of cheating and the EBU are treating it like some governments treat the threat of climate change “we still need more evidence, nothing is certain”
Jon Ola Sand: “We concluded that there is no evidence that Ictimai TV had been involved with, or had been aware of the attempts”. So basically whether cheating occured or not, the reality is there was no way to prove the broadcaster was involved or aware of the cheating attempts. Granted a lot of people will say “We all know they did it” which is fine and good but that’s not really a valid reason to ban someone from the contest for several years. This is the exact reason why the EBU is tighten some of those rules.

A-lister (ESC United Forum}: Well, it’s a good thing if they were serious about all this, but it does give a bad taste in mouth that they admit they knew about foul play and cheating all along and first now say something on it.
The Eurovision Event Supervisor Sietse Bakker pointed out that before making any announcements you first need to investigate properly and decide upon measures to give the complete picture. When running a business, organization or speak on behalf of a group of people you don’t want to be unprepared. If any announcements or data was made public immediately and without proper research, the EBU would have not had all the answers to address the issues properly and that would look unprofessional on their end. This is the reason why an official statement wasn’t made until today.

VictorG (Twitter): Does this mean handing out SMS cards to vote for a particular country is considered illegal?
This is not a simple Yes or No answer and really depends on the scenario. Mr. Bakker used a really interesting metaphor: “It’s like lighting a flare in a football stadium (it’s probably not allowed, but in perspective no big deal).” So handing out a few phones and have people vote a few times would not raise any major concerns, however if we talk about thousands of votes and pay those people, then that would be a different scenario. The EBU knows what hits the systems and filter out those votes accordingly.

There are individuals out there who believe that the EBU is covering things up by not releasing the the 2013 results. While that is a valid concern, it’s important to point out that since 2010 we never received a detailed breakdown of the votes so it’s not an issue pertaining to 2013 only. The reason given by the EBU was to protect the smaller countries or those who do not meet the televote threshold from external influence. The reality is if someone thinks that the EBU is corrupt and actively trying to cover up voting frauds and briberies, there is not a whole lot they or myself can say to change their mind. But hopefully this step will even give the biggest sceptics out there something to be excited about.

Is there room for improvement? The answer to that will always be Yes! Let’s see how 2014 pans out. The televote and jury votes detailed breakdown will add a great deal of transparency. Some may say I am too supportive of the EBU. As someone who works with many different corporations and organizations on a daily basis, I find it rather refreshing that the people at the EBU are actually approachable and respond to your inquiries in a timely fashion. Sietse Bakker communicates on Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis with the fans of the contest which is something that IMO should not be taken for granted. 

There is one thing we all have in common and that is we all have the same goal, to keep the contest fair and fun. Let’s hope 2014 will be the year leading by example.

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