Eurovision voting scandal: EBU tightens rules after alleged breaches

Lithuanian news site 15min.lt ought to be feeling pretty good. Their undercover investigation, which alleged that Azerbaijan had hired agents to facilitate vote-rigging, unleashed a tidal wave of media coverage around the world. Now it seems like their efforts have helped drive change within the European Broadcasting Union, which has announced tighter rules ahead of this year’s contest in Denmark.

The EBU launched its official investigation into the matter over the summer, and subsequently published stricter rules for the jury. Today Eurovision.tv is reporting that the results of the EBU investigation did indeed detect efforts to manipulate voting. But it claims that these attempts did not succeed and that “no evidence was found to link any participating broadcaster to any improper activity or to suggest that any broadcaster was aware of the origin of the activity.”

The EBU is beefing up its rules and regulations anyway. If its team of voting monitors detect any irregularities—before, during or after the competition—”the Reference Group will automatically initiate procedures which carry a penalty of exclusion of the respective participating broadcaster from the contest for a maximum of three consecutive years.”

Like bad dinner guests, those who cheat will be excluded from future parties.

In a separate interview, Eurovision chief Jan Ola Sand stressed that Azerbaijan’s broadcaster Ictimai TV was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

We concluded that there is no evidence that Ictimai TV had been involved with, or had been aware of the attempts. But the EBU and the Reference Group also want to protect the contest from unfair practice. It was therefore decided to hold each broadcaster more strictly accountable for any wrongdoing in favour of their entry, no matter where it comes from, and to automatically propose exclusion from the contest in case we detect cheating attempts.

What do you think of today’s news? Is a potential three-year ban enough of a deterrent? If national broadcasters aren’t to blame, how can the EBU track down and stop those guilty of dubious campaigning?

Click here to read all of our coverage of the Eurovision voting scandal.

Willy Lee Adams contributed this report from London. Follow him on Twitter @willyleeadams. You can also keep up with the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following wiwibloggs.com on Twitter and Facebook.