EBU: Jamala’s May 2015 performance of “1944” does not breach Eurovision rules

Ukraine’s Jamala snatched Eurovision 2016 victory by the slimmest of margins on Saturday and controversy has been brewing ever since. On Tuesday, the EBU was forced to bat away a Change.org petition calling for the result to be revised. Today, the body has had to release yet another statement defending the winner. This comes after it emerged that “1944” had been performed in May 2015 — four months before the 1 September eligibility window for Eurovision.

Jamala “1944” May 2015 performance

The original fan recording (which is now private) was uploaded to YouTube in May 2015. The footage is grainy, but Jamala’s distinctive vocal tones are easily recognisable. In a performance that lasts several minutes, the Ukrainian singer sings a medley of songs including an early version of “1944”. The lyrics are different, as is the language used. However, Eurovision rules state that entries must not be commercially released before 1 September. Is “1944” in breach of these rules? The EBU says no.

In a statement published on Facebook, the alliance of public broadcasters explains that neither the performance nor the YouTube footage gave Jamala an unfair advantage in Stockholm. The song was performed in a small concert venue, while the video had only been viewed by a few hundred people before the contest.

EBU statement on Jamala’s “1944”

The full statement reads:

Statement on performance of Ukraine’s winning Eurovision Song Contest song before September 1 deadline:

“The Eurovision Song Contest rule (1.2.1a) which states that entries must not have been commercially released before September 1 exists to make sure that the Contest can welcome new compositions each year, and that every song can compete on a level playing field.
The purpose of the rule is to prevent wide distribution of any song that might give it an unfair advantage in the competition the following May.

In the past, songs that had been publicly available before the deadline, but had not been accessible by a wide audience, had been granted permission to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest by the Reference Group.

In the case of Jamala’s “1944” the EBU’s attention has been drawn, after the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, to a public performance of an earlier version of the song in May 2015.

The video of a small concert had only been viewed by a few hundred people before it was discovered in the past few days.

The EBU, based on previous decisions in the Reference Group, therefore has concluded that the published video did not give Jamala’s song any unfair advantage in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest and the song was eligible to compete.”

Previous Cases

Jamala is not the first artist to benefit from a relaxation of the 1 September rule. Back in January, the EBU held that Anja Nissen’s “Never Alone” would be eligible to represent Denmark at Eurovision 2016 if it won DMGP. This was despite the fact that Emmelie De Forest had previously performed the song at a number of 2014 concerts. In 2013, the EBU gave the green light for the Netherlands to send Anouk with “Birds” even though she had played a snippet during a 2011 radio interview.

What do you think of the EBU’s ruling on “1944”? Is it fair? Let us know in the comments below.

Read all our Ukraine Eurovision 2016 news.

Photo: EBU