It is not until mistakes are made, that lessons are learnt, and that’s been the case with the European Broadcasting Union in 2017, with the issues surrounding Ukraine hosting the contest, and Russia’s place within the competition. As a result of these issues, the EBU has announced some changes to the rules in order to solidify the message that the contest needs to remain apolitical.
Let’s recap the Ukraine-Russia situation (within the Eurovision 2017 context, I am certainly not qualified to comment on the political happenings between the two nations!). Essentially, what you need to know is that Ukraine won Eurovision 2016, thus giving them the opportunity to host the 2017 contest. They accepted this role, and seemingly Russia were going to participate, despite the external political conflicts between the two nations. It was close to the deadline that all songs need to be submitted, and Russia finally announced that it would be Julia Samoylova to represent Russia. The drama began due to the fact that Julia was actually banned from entering Ukraine – once again, due to that external political conflict. As such, the EBU offered alternatives, such as performing via satellite, of which Russia rightfully declined, and eventually Russia withdrew. It’s not really our place to comment on the legitimacy of Russia’s intentions for Eurovision 2017, whether it was a legitimate selection, or whether it was one big pot stir, but we’re leaning towards the latter. Nevertheless…
Back to the EBU and the 2018 rule changes. Naturally the EBU was disappointed with Ukraine and their handling of the situation, as they want all interested nations to have the opportunity to perform as equals on stage. It seems that Salvador Sobral stirred up his own little controversy, by wearing a sweater which had ‘SOS Refugees’ written on it. This led to the clauses:
“The ESC is a non-political event and all Participating Broadcasters, including the Host Broadcaster, shall ensure that all necessary steps are undertaken within in their respective Delegations and teams in order to make sure that no organization, institution, political cause or other cause, company, brand, product or service shall be promoted or mentioned during the Event.
No messages promoting any organization, institution, political cause or other, company, brand, products or services shall be allowed in the Shows and within any official ESC premises (i.e. at the venue, during the Opening Ceremony, the Eurovision village, the Press Centre, etc.). A breach of this rule may result in disqualification.”
The next few statements seemingly are in reference to the Ukraine-Russia situation, but also the disorganisation of the Ukrainian team when it came to putting all the puzzle pieces in place for a smooth broadcast of Eurovision 2017. Here are the clauses:
“(l)The Host Broadcaster shall respect at all times the deadlines agreed upon with the EBU for the proper, timely and smooth implementation of the ESC and it shall comply with EBU instructions.
Non-respect thereof shall constitute a breach of the Host Broadcaster Agreement enabling the EBU to unilaterally terminate the Host Broadcaster Agreement and entrust another Member with the production and organisation of the ESC.
(m) The Host Broadcaster shall ensure that all the contestants selected by the Participating Broadcasters are able to perform in person live on stage in the Shows (including in all the rehearsals and in the Dress Rehearsals). The Host Broadcaster shall do its utmost to safeguard the non-political character of the Event.”
The next clause takes us back to Julia Samoylova, who out of the context of Eurovision was banned from Ukraine. The rule very clearly states that the selected performer and/or their delegations must not be a part of any situations whereby the host nations could apply a ban.
“2.2) PARTICIPATING BROADCASTERS’ COMMITMENTS
e) undertakes to enter a national song and an artist in compliance with the present Rules and to organize a national selection process as it deems fit and under its sole responsibility; in particular, no selected artist nor any member of the Delegation shall have any antecedents likely to prompt the Host Country’s national authorities to deny them access to the Host Country in accordance with applicable national law”
Lastly, there’s been another push to ensure that all juries are being fair when it comes to voting. This means that the jury members can’t be associated with any of the participating songs or acts, as this could lead to bias.
“No member of the National Jury is connected in any way with any of the participating songs entered and/or artists performing in the ESC in such a way that they may be prevented from voting in complete independence, impartiality, fairness, objectiveness and using all their professional skill and experience without favouring any contestant on the account of their nationality, gender or likeliness.”
Will these changes prevent any issues in future editions of Eurovision?