Earlier today, esctoday.com revealed that the EBU had contacted broadcasters to ask their thoughts about possible voting changes for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. esctoday.com put some questions to Sietse Bakker, Manager of Communications & PR for the Eurovision Song Contest regarding the questionnaire, broadcaster dissatisfaction at the current voting system, the Eurovision Song Contest and the chances of seeing changes to the voting procedure.
Can you say how many broadcasters have so far threatened to withdraw or have at least mentioned that they are considering it, if the voting procedure is not changed for the final next year?
"The rules and applications for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest have not even been sent out yet, so the buzz about broadcasters withdrawing is premature, in my opinion. Every year, we see broadcasters reconsidering their participation for a broad range of reasons, which is their full right. We are happy to see though, that in a solid majority of the cases, broadcasters are very loyal to the Eurovision Song Contest".
In 2007the EBUreacted to the many broadcasters' demands to change the qualification system for the final. The two semi final system appears to have worked and qualification seemed to be fair in 2008. How seriously is theEBU taking the need to change the voting system for the Eurovision Song Contest final?
"Every year, the contest is being evaluated by the Reference Group. Suggestions from EBU members and viewers, as well as figures are being taken into consideration. That might lead to changes, but not for the sake of change alone. It is improvement that should be the foundation of change. The need to change depends on the possibility to improve, and that is not always so simple as it looks. Should anything be improved for next year´s contest, you will most likely find out before the end of the year".
How many voting changes have been proposed on the questionnaire to broadcasters, and how will the EBU evaulate the responses?
"I have not seen the forms myself yet, so I would have to pass here. I can firmly state that we take the responses from our Members very seriously, and that the Reference Group will closely look into all suggestions – as ever. The same counts for ideas put forward by dedicated fans, by the way. We read all ideas, and ocasionally, a good idea makes it to the table at a Reference Group meeting. "
Ever since I have been following this great event, which I started long before I got the opportunity of working for the EBU, I have seen complaints from the fan community – besides the great passion and positive energy, of course. It is very easy to complain, or to talk about the need for change, but to actually come up with a good, workable idea has proven not to be easy. Good understanding of TV production is often important. Fortunately, the Reference Group is made up of very skilled people.
Dedicated fans with good ideas are always welcome to send those to [email protected], by the way!"
Will the potential new voting methods on the questionnaire be published at any point?
"We never publish the evaluation forms from EBU Members after the Eurovision Song Contest".
Do you think the changes will be implemented for the 2009 competition?
"Every year, the EBU introduces changes in the format, either minor or major ones. I can say it is most likely that also in 2009, we will see changes. But as I said, only for the sake of improvement, and not for the sake of change alone. If that also involves changes in the voting for the final, it is yet to be decided. Don't forget thatin essence, the voting system used in the final is already successfully in use for decades. We are proud of that, and it is well-known across Europe! Again, by the end of the year you will know more!"
Do you believe that complaints about political voting or that Western countries are at a disadvantage are valid?
"I think the term "political" is often misplaced in this context. I do not believe people vote for a neighbour country becáuse of the country, or for political reasons. But they do vote for a song in the same language, an artist they know too, shared cultural values that express themselves in music and so on. Thát kind of connections play a role in the decision to vote for a song".
In the case of the former Yugoslavia or Soviet Union for example, many people live in countries which they would not consider their 'natural homeland', for example Serbs in Bosnia, Croatians in Serbia, Ukrainians in Russia or Russians in Georgia. Do you think that where the numbers form a sizeable proportion of the population, there can be little doubt that pure televoting will result in an unbalanced result in the national televote?
"That people live in countries which they would not consider their 'natural homeland' is the result of history. The trend of globalization will only increase that. That is the reality of the world we live in. But we cannot and should not ask people for their passport when they vote – not to speak about the practical implications. Dedicated people vote with dedication, and you can sometimes see that in the results.
If others believe with the same dedication another song should win, I hope they will vote with the same dedication as well. With televoting, the excitement is truly in the hands of the viewers. All viewers!"
esctoday.com would like to thank Mr. Bakker for his open responses to our questions.