Sietse Bakker, Event Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, has a lot on his mind. The world’s biggest music spectacle is right around the corner and there are plenty of loose ends to tie up. But at the end of February he was kind enough to take some time out of his hectic pre-Eurovision schedule to chat with wiwibloggs about a number of issues — from Australia at Eurovision to determining the ESC running order to Ukraine’s withdrawal to what constitutes a political song. You can listen to the full interview below, but we’ve also pulled out some highlights for your convenience.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Sietse, I spoke with him in a three-part series last year, and we talked (1) money, venues and change (2) the ballot box and other scandals and (3) whether the voting system needs to be reformed. I didn’t bother to ask any of these questions again, and many of his answers then are still relevant for this and future contests.

Thank you to Sietse for his candor and insight!

Australia

Sietse delves into how Australia’s participation came about. We’ve discussed this previously on the site, but it was great to get some insight from the EBU. He said that starting three years ago the Australians said they wanted to participate. And the EBU replied that this was a problem because the rules said you have to be in the EBU and Australia is quite a ways away from the EBU.

So the first step was to have them performing in the interval last year. That gave both parties the chance to see how participating worked. The Aussies created such a superb act it demonstrated that Australia was up to the challenge. Many discussions followed, around the building bridges theme and the 60 year anniversary, and the desire to do something different.

I asked if Australia’s participation fee is similar to that of a Big 5 nation. He wouldn’t give an exact amount — fair enough — instead saying “they’re paying a reasonable amount.”

Will There be Another?

Next I asked him if there will be another big nation from outside Europe joining the mix. He said there is no long term plan to bring in other countries. But he then immediately followed up that it would be interesting to see if they could involve Canada, the United States, South Africa, or China. He viewed this more of a way to increase interest in those countries — not as a step to adding them to the lineup.

What makes a song political?

Next I asked Sietse what constitutes a political song. His answer was very similar to Justice Potter Stewart’s description of pornography: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced, but I know it when I see it.”

Fundamentally they don’t want the song contest to be a platform for promoting political views or political messaging.

Ukraine This Year

This next question is one dear to my heart as I think Ukraine tends to have the most amazing songs every year. I asked if Ukraine called up today and wanted to participate whether this would be possible. He said that there is no way to do so now because it’s too late to schedule in another act. He sounded like he liked the possibility — the more the merrier! — but explained that the scheduling is locked in. He also said that they have had numerous conversations with the broadcasters and they have strong reasons to not participate this year. He followed on by saying that they are continuing to talk with Ukraine and they hope to see them back next year.

The Running Order

I then asked Sietse if the EBU has any influence on the running order. He talked about how they observe the show producers as they discuss how best to order the acts, based on the songs themselves, the lights, the contents on the screen, the geography of the countries, and then pick the order. The EBU then has to approve that ordering. To date they have always approved the initial proposed ordering.

Will Vienna Go Over Budget?

I asked if Vienna will pull a Copenhagen and go way over budget. Sietse pointed out that the song contest itself was under budget, but the City of Copenhagen went way over budget turning the shipyard into a concert venue (gee what a surprise).

He then talked about the challenges Vienna faces. First the venue is in the middle of a residential area (so forget driving to it). They are hitting issues like where to put the additional power supplies and other equipment they need for the show.

Second there are other events at the same time including a convention of 30,000 liver doctors (yes there are over 30,000 liver doctors). Sietse did point out that with all the excessive drinking during the event, we’ll have doctors there to handle anyone having liver problems from all the alcohol.

Vote Fraud

I asked Sietse if we’ll see as much questionable voting as last year. He replied that the countries last year saw the result of the full votes being published and how journalists then asked critical questions about the vote results. And he hopes this year that they will take into account the result of this transparency.

He then went on to talk about his hope that with this increased transparency their integrity is now on the line. And that over time this transparency will lead to a better result. He then did talk about how this is a hope and what we’re going to see is improvement, but we’ll probably never hit a point where there are no issues.

Sietse then brought up the legit point that the televoters have all these songs they’re hearing for the first time and it’s so many that they look for anchors for their votes. So when a neighbor sings, they remember it because it’s their neighbor. That doesn’t determine the vote, but it helps their neighbors, when the song is good.

What’s The Most Interesting Change This Year?

My final question is what will be the most interesting this we will see this year. That lead to a 15 second pause as he was thinking about it and he then said the set. That the stage will be out of this world in terms of what they can do with it. So be prepared to be blown away with what can be done on the stage.

He then talked about how everyone in Europe makes fun of Eurovision and how they want people to realize how good the music is. He said that Eurovision is one of those guilty pleasures where everyone trash talks it, yet then watches it.

He then went on to talk about Eurovision has become a giant media event, along with the TV broadcast. Eurovision will shortly have their 1 billionth YouTube view (that’s billion with a B!). Everyone talks about it, everyone watches it.

Or as an American friend of mine said after living in Europe for 3 years, no one even mentions it and then the week of the show comes around and the entire continent of Europe goes bat-shit insane.

32 Comments
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jual cellfood
4 years ago

Very good site you have here but I was curious about if you knew of any message boards that
cover the same topics talked about here? I’d really love to be a part of group
where I can get responses from other experienced people that share the same
interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Bless you!

danielvarga
danielvarga
5 years ago

@PP

But Kazakhstan, Kosovo and Qatar wanted to join in the past. Kazakhstan still wants to participate. And I would be happy if they could join with a song like “Izin körem” by Zhanar Dugalova (or even with Zhanar) from last year’s Türkvizyon. That song is a masterpiece. 🙂

Tiara
5 years ago

Without an agreed upon or simple and succinct explanation of what
PR professionals and what these big London PR agencies
are doing, who can blame the public for believing the television. Or
Individually Turn-off DEP for Sims 3 Ambitions game. Call of Duty has long been one
of the most realistic games ever made.

PP
PP
5 years ago

danielvarga

EBU should invite only Liechtenstein to join Eurovision and countries like Luxembourg, Andorra, Monaco, Morocco……, other coutries Katar, Kazahkstan, Kosov is not members of EBU .

danielvarga
danielvarga
5 years ago

EBU should invite Liechtenstein, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, and Qatar too.

danielvarga
danielvarga
5 years ago

EBU should bring back the running order draw. And the producers should decide the semi-final of each participating country, considering the political friendships. One of the two friends should be put into a semi-final by draw and the other country automatically goes to the other semi-final. For example, if Greece is drawn to the first semi-final then Cyprus automatically goes to the second semi-final. Or if Romania is drawn to the second semi-final then Moldova automatically goes to the first semi-final. The same with Belgium and Netherlands, Azerbaijan and Turkey, Finland and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Armenia and Georgia, Ukraine… Read more »

Adam
Adam
5 years ago

The idea of a worldvision song contest is amazing by theory, but it would probably suck in real life. The logistics of it all would be a nightmare, and not to mention that Eurovision would be relegated to a not-as-important regional qualifier to the Grand Grand Final of Worldvision. Then we’ll have to have Amerivision, Africavision, Asiavision, and Oceanivision as their own regional qualifiers and all that. It might work if it was an every 2 year contest but in the end, I’d still rather have eurovision.

PP
PP
5 years ago

Please back running order from draw, not to producer and EBU fix the draw, after countries chooose semifinal and position first half, second half, and in final first half , second half. I don t want to Eurovision go to World song contest, only if we have Eurovision and from Eurovision first TOP 5 countries at World song Contest. Change voting rules similar like from 1971 to 1973 , every countries get vote from another country who vote , example 16 countries in I semifinal, maximum maximum 450 points if that countries get 30 points from another 15 countries in… Read more »

Latheldra
Latheldra
5 years ago

Good things

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

Well i actually had how many more helpful things additionally to post 4 the article and what can be done to help the Vision go bigger and more famous but im really turned off by the unfortunate way the situation turned here with how many users turning against me.. It would not be spam if i kept thinking more another new info that i was unable to have them all together written in just one single comment of mine.. I was not the one that started this.. Ok im going to stop commenting under THIS specific article.. If anyone replies… Read more »

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

Ok i was intending to write this as well but unfortunately i got distracted by that douche though.. ———————————————————————- Yeah…This phenomenon does happens…Too many people although they are tuned every year to watch the grand final of EuroVision and they start getting very interested about ESC few days ago all the other days they tend to ignore the Vision UNFORTUNATELY…They do NOT watch any of the NFs…They do not get to listen the entries until few days before the big final or they listen them 4 the very first time when the final is on live that Saturday.. Here in… Read more »

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

Well why you don’t back OFF… X
Stop throwing oil to the fire and just leave it..
You should not had bothered posting your nonsense along with your lame nickname..

I would only had posted just a single ONE comment here initially and it was all the others members that pushed / made me to post all these replies..
But i do not owe you an explanation and im not writing this for you anyway..

mawnck
mawnck
5 years ago

EXCELLENT interview. Thank you.

My Straight Vision of Straight Love 4Ever ~
My Straight Vision of Straight Love 4Ever ~
5 years ago

Great article, it’s nice to see what insiders say. Sad to see that he kind of diverted the question elsewhere and didn’t answer all of them directly.
—————————————————————————————————-
I agree with the other users. Mario’s <3 😀 xoxo comments are getting ridiculous. I like reading this blog, and rarely comment. But this pushed me to it… Is there anyway of banning members that spam? Reposting the same comment just because they want to add a few more 'GAY' to their name? #

#straightluv4ever xoxo <3 😀

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

~ Really unfortunate that the official fb page of EuroVision has only 850.000 fb fans followers when hundred millions of people not only in Europe but in the whole globe SPHERE are tuned to watch live via streaming the grand final.. ~ EBU could work harder with promoting the Vision with pretty much any way..! ~ People at home should get allowed to vote every entry only ONCE so that the samples of the gathered votes by each entry will be the real representative one on exactly the number of voters people that gave their vote to.. But the option… Read more »

Alex
Alex
5 years ago

they need to promote the contest in USA and Brazil, i’m sure they would love it. They should invite international stars to perform (Celine Dion, Madonna?). Also, they shouldn’t decrease the budget of the show, viewers expect a grande television show and we were disappointed by the poor organisation in Sweden! Perhaps, EBU should put pressure on some countries to take it more seriously (France for example) and maybe suggest ways to increase the popularity of the contest in Italy. Also, it would be a great idea to add more jury members in each national jury in order to decrease… Read more »

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

@ Are you one of the admins of the site? Answer to this question please.. It is just very absurd 4 me to get blocked when all these comments are not spam.. Others users were the first that replied to me and i had to respond to them.. Other members do it all the time here with posting even many comments each of them on every article.. But if this happens,i will NOT leave it like this though and i will complain about that because it is totally unfair for me to might possibly get blocked when i absolutely didn’t… Read more »

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

@ Jeffie
Well its not my fault obviously as i had to reply to all these users that referred to me with their comments..
Plus i had some additional info to add here on the topic that i left out on my initial post..
And there was no reason at all for you to post your own comment about me..
xx

Fatima
Fatima
5 years ago

I would have asked Sietse if there is any prospect of reducing the number of finalists. Thanks to Australia and a defending champion out of the Big five we’ll have 27 songs which I feel is way to many for one show. None of the currently popular primetime televising shows have anything like as many contestants so this should be looked at before we think of adding new countries.

Jeffie
Jeffie
5 years ago

Mario: You’re going to get blocked if these comments continue. It’s annoying.

Brazileurofan
Brazileurofan
5 years ago

Brazil in 2016 please!

Mario EuroVision
Mario EuroVision
5 years ago

Oh.. 🙂
By the way…I guess that Sietse Bakker very soon will gonna take the job of the executive supervisor of our Euro Vision! <3 🙂
I would like & prefer Mr. Christer Bjorkman to get hired first 4 this job as he managed to organize a dreamy amazing EuroVision in Malmo & plenty fantastic Melodifestivalens in Sweden! <3 🙂
Sietse Bakker is still so young and he can wait a bit before he is given the high profile job of the executive supervisor 🙂

Mario
Mario
5 years ago

Ok one more comment to clear this…
Im sorry if my texts here are too many though..

I change my nickname all the time….Many times i have it as simply only *Mario* or *Mario My Vision*..
I do not justify if how many users are getting sensitive with my harmless ok nicknames…

Mario ~ My Vision of Gay Love ~ So Much THANK U Otna!
Mario ~ My Vision of Gay Love ~ So Much THANK U Otna!
5 years ago

@ OTNA <3 🙂 Really thank you 4 this! <3 🙂 You make me feel great now that you like & enjoy my comments! <3 😀 + of course my so called Vision of Gay Love! <3 😀 🙂 I love you ! <3 🙂 { i hope that you are a handsome young gay guy because if you are female user then i will take back my love 😛 im kidding ofc hehe 😉 } I know that YOU get me & you can understand totally my special sense of humor and just pretty everything in my written comments!… Read more »

Mario Heterosexual ~ My Vision of Straight Love
Mario Heterosexual ~ My Vision of Straight Love
5 years ago

@ Teemo
Ok u are cool..
I understand your point of view…And i appreciate your words..
Cheers.. 🙂

Otna
Otna
5 years ago

Mario’s glam tbh, love reading his posts lol.

Teemo
Teemo
5 years ago

Lets Bring China to the Eurovision for 1 year! As an Indonesian/Dutch myself i’ll would like to see some asian roots. Till now we only had our indonesian pride > Anggun (France 2012) Also Estonia 2009 was kind’a asian. Besides i think that a strong contender as China or Japan can win the contest in only 1 attemd, but so i thought about Australia and they don’t come even close to winning… Go China/Japan/Indonesia/Korea/Phillipines. Can’t we trade Russia, Lithuania, Uk, Belarus or Serbia for one of those countries? @Mario She means that you’re just over exited about being gay. I… Read more »

Mario GAY ~ My So GAY Vision of GAY GAY GAY GAY Love!
Mario GAY ~ My So GAY Vision of GAY GAY GAY GAY Love!
5 years ago

@ Well its my own nickname after all and i never persuaded anyone here.. But its only YOU {and some others} that you make a fuss over this when its pointless to get upset over this sh*t and mind this.. You should not take me seriously if you don’t want to..! Its only my own personal stuff and i do not represent obviously the public general opinion..Just chill out and back off.. Just better look your own business please and just stay away from me & my own precious GAY Vision of GAY Love…! xoxo.. >> Leave me alone you… Read more »

Britney
Britney
5 years ago

@Mario don’t you think you’re pissing people of with all that “gay vision”, “gay love” etc.? It’s not called homophobia when gay pushes everybody in face that he/she is homosexual. Do heteresexual people do that? Do we say “heterosexual vision” or change song titles? No, we don’t! Don’t be so pathentic and be normal. Your attitude is why people start hate homosexuals.

Mario My Vision of Gay Love ~ We Must Change This Voting System Because It Is So Unfair!
Mario My Vision of Gay Love ~ We Must Change This Voting System Because It Is So Unfair!
5 years ago

So….! Let me express my self.. 🙂 The way of the voting should change 4 good! How..?? Let me explain it.. 🙂 It is really unfair for so many songs to not get voted with points and only just 10 songs having this privilege.. The voting procedure could be much more exciting and thrilling if this scenario happened..! In 2013 the Irish entry *Only Gay Love Survives* of Ryal Dolan finished unfortunately last on the final when it had done nice business in the voting finishing somewhere 11th to 20th…But because these places did not offer any points to poor… Read more »

jr esc nl
jr esc nl
5 years ago

I’m so excited to see the stage!