Yesterday we shared some highlights of our recent conversation with EBU big dog Sietse Bakker. Today we move on from location and money to discuss allegations of fraud and transparency at Eurovision. You can listen to the full audio of our chat here, but we’ve pulled out the highlights below.
Stuffing the Ballot Box
Sietse first walked me through what has been brought to the EBU’s attention and explained that they investigated the allegations as best they could. Sietse was precise with his language. He did not claim there has not been fraud, but that they have been unable to find the evidence of fraud.
I asked if there has been any statistical analysis of the vote that suggests there have been fraudulent votes cast, even if you can’t show how. He replied that they do a lot of analysis of the voting but did not comment on whether things looked fishy to him.
As we all know, Malta routinelys gives Azerbaijan top points, despite the fact their nations have no apparent cultural affinities or historical connections. Sietse has a logical explanation for the voting. All nations are allowed to do PR, and Azerbaijan regularly invests resources into Malta. They sell their entry to the sunny island and their efforts can have a significant impact on the vote. Some may view that as a stretch, but it is certainly a fair argument.
Next he discussed the rumors of jury vote trading. He explain that there are safety checks in place. Jurors have means to report questionable behavior, and they have one on one interviews with EBU officials. He also encouraged those with evidence to come forward. He cannot tackle the problem without evidence it exists.
To Sietse’s credit, he went through all the major cases that have come up as part of the Eurovision 2013 voting scandal. He never claimed it didn’t happen, and consistently pleaded for someone with evidence to step forward. I don’t think this is a case of the EBU closing its eyes to the issue. But without evidence, they can’t do anything. And that is a very fair point – you don’t sanction countries on rumors.
Going forward they’ve taken a gigantic step toward eliminating fraud. Starting this year they will release all the votes, jury votes by juror, jury & televote totals by country, etc. This won’t stop vote fraud. This won’t identify how the fraud is accomplished. But it will easily and unequivocally identify if it is occurring and to who’s benefit. (They can’t do this for past years as they didn’t make that release a requirement of each country.)
Remember how Enron always got approval from their auditors? Eurovision uses PWC to audit every step of the voting process. I asked about the case of Italy where their jury clearly did not meet the requirements for a country’s jury. I asked if the PWC audit had any credibility when they missed something so easy & basic.
He discussed how it happened, that the paperwork comes in for a couple of jurors, then later for others. And it’s all on paper. So no one had a point where they looked at all the members, then verified the demographics of all of them matched the requirements. They are changing this to a system where each is entered electronically and the system will immediately verify the demographic requirements are all met.
Ok, good step. But it didn’t speak to the credibility of PWC. When I suggested they might want to consider a different auditor, he replied that most of their effort occurs on the day of the voting. And he then discussed in detail what they do observing the jury voting.
The bottom line is EBU is improving the system to avoid this problem in the future. But I think they’re comfortable with PWC and therefore continuing with an auditor who missed a clear and obvious problem. So I don’t put much credibility in the statement “this is all audited by PWC.”
Yesterday: Location & Money || Tomorrow: The Voting System