EBU under pressure to tighten ethical rules

by Juha Repo 387 views

Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan is over, and the next host will be Sweden. As the delegations have returned home, ongoing discussions about the European Broadcasting Union EBU’s ethical rules have resurfaced. As reported  in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, there has been some pressure in particular from the Nordic broadcasters, supported by some other EBU members, to discuss the rules EBU members have to follow.

The matter was discussed at length at the last EBU General Assembly in Helsinki, where a task force was set up to present a new ethical code for the EBU The resulting documents have been distributed to the members and will be presented at the EBU General Assembly in Strasbourg on the 21st and 22nd June 2012. The declaration of common values would complement the EBU statutes, which member countries have to sign.

The work has focused on developing a statement of shared values, an editorial guideline to member companies and common values. Once this is complete and approved, the remaining process is to discuss what could and should have consequences, and how it can be linked to possible sanctions for members. This part of the process is not yet worked out and much work remains. Further work may also lead to the need to review the EBU statutes, esctoday.com has learned from the Swedish public broadcaster, SVT.

The discussions of the EBU members’ values are held at the highest level within the broadcasters, at managing directors’ level and apply to the whole of EBU, not just the Eurovision Song Contest. The YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) director for creative content and also ultimately in charge of the Eurovision Song Contest participation for Finland, Ville Vilen, confirms to esctoday.com there are no discussions about excluding certain EBU members from the song contest, but that there is pressure within the wider EBU to tighten the membership rules.

Hans-Tore Bjerkaas at Nordic Media Festival 2010. Photo: Eirik Helland Urke


Hans-Tore Bjerkaas, the Managing Director of the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has spoken out after a Norwegian comic journalist was allegedly humiliated by Azerbaijani customs official when leaving the country. The reporter had made some satirical interviews in the streets of Azerbaijan for a Norwegian TV show. At the border the reported is said to have made to answer to questions naked, while the officials filmed him. The Norwegian broadcaster and foreign ministry have protested about the incident, as the Azerbaijani hosts had assured press freedom for journalists.

Eva Hamilton at Nordic Media Festival 2010. Foto: Eirik Helland Urke

The Managing Director of Swedish broadcaster SVT, the host of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, Eva Hamilton, is telling dn.se today that new democracy demands could be in place for EBU members already next year. Ms Hamilton says that the credibility and legitimacy of EBU is undermined by member companies, who are controlled by questionable regimes. The basis for the discussions have been at least the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest host Azerbaijan, but also Hungary and its new restrictive media laws. Also events during the Arab Spring have according to Hamilton shown how the EBU currently has no proper sanctions to use against members who cross the line. A debate also arose when the Chinese broadcaster CCTV was given an associate membership with the EBU in 2010.

In 2007 EBU rules were changed so, that even countries outside the European Broadcasting Area could join in if they were members of the Council of Europe. This would enable for example Kazakhstan to join, if they were accepted as a member of the European Council.

Many international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, also loudly criticised EBU for not doing enough to ensure human rights were secured in the 2012 host country Azerbaijan.

So the pressure is on  EBU to be able to make sure member broadcasters follow democracy, freedom of press, freedom of expression, diversity and protection of minorities, as stated by the Union rules. It remains to be seen whether EBU will allow itself bigger powers to eventually change its statutes so, that existing member states can be sanctioned, or even excluded.

Source: esctoday.com, dn.se, YLE, SVT

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