When the EBU fired Kath Lockett as the Head of Press for Junior Eurovision on October 20, followers of JESC let out a collective gasp. Now, what started as Eurofan drama, has made its way into the mainstream press, with Sweden’s Aftonbladet and the UK’s popbitch asking questions about ethics and transparency, and drawing rather ugly analogies between the EBU and FIFA. In recent days, Germany’s NDR has been asking questions, too, suggesting the story isn’t running out of steam just yet. Instead it’s acting as a gateway to broader issues of Eurovision governance.

Background

Since the 2013 event, Lockett has worked as the head of press for JESC, helping turn the show into a success following years of declining interest from broadcasters and viewers. Prior to Lockett’s arrival the show was handled by Wow!Works, a company owned by Sietse Bakker that also runs the Eurovision.tv web site. Owing to the contest’s decline, the EBU took JESC off of the company’s hands in 2012. Countless Eurovision journalists have credited Ms. Lockett with helping to revitalise interest in the event and for showing an enthusiasm and excitement that was previously lacking.

Fast forward to October 16, 2015 and Lockett learns that the EBU will hold an open tender for the organisation of all Eurovision events. The rules only allow companies that have been in existance for at least three years to apply, essentially making it impossible for non-companies, such as Lockett and her team, to submit a bid.

kath lockett twitter ebu

On October 20 Lockett posted critical questions on Bakker’s personal Facebook page. Among other things, she asked why volunteers working on the Eurovision.tv web site were not paid; what happens to the revenues from the official Eurovision YouTube channel (which has over two billion views); and how Bakker justifies the poor quality of news and material on Eurovision.tv.

kath locket ebu comments

You’re fired

Within hours her job was gone.

“I was told that I was fired, effective immediately,” she tells Aftonbladet, “because the comments I put on Sietse Bakker’s personal Facebook page were supposedly damaging to the reputation of the EBU.”

The EBU is remaining tight-lipped. Dave Goodman, a communications officer at the EBU, e-mailed Aftonbladet this pithy one-liner: “It is the EBU’s policy not to comment on the termination of contracts with individuals.”

kath lockettThere’s no doubt that Lockett’s comments were provocative. But in firing her, the EBU has caused itself a lot more reputational damage than it would have by simply ignoring her comments, which she deleted 15 minutes after posting. Originally seen by a handful of hardcore Eurovision fans, her comments have now been shared widely on social media and in the international press. By trying to show strength — you’re fired! — the EBU has revealed its insecurity and sensitivity over the questions she raised. In the process they’ve unintentionally created a martyr for those demanding reform.

Speaking to wiwibloggs, Lockett says she has no regrets: “Putting up my queries on Sietse Bakker’s personal Facebook page was indeed foolish and risky, but I felt that it was my only way of getting these concerns out there — if only for a few minutes — after they had been ignored inside the EBU.”

Questions for Jon Ola Sand

Jan Ola Sand Eurovision 2010Lockett’s questions grabbed attention, but many of these issues had been in the public domain prior to the Facebook incident. On October 29 German broadcaster NDR wrote that it had, in August, sent an extensive list of questions to Eurovision superviser Jon Ola Sand. These covered YouTube revenues, organisational and financial practices, why the running of Eurovision events is outsourced to non-EBU staff members, and Wow! Works’ 322,000 euro contract with the EBU to run the Eurovision web site.

Among his responses, Sand points out that there is a great deal of transparency within the Eurovision Reference Group. If you read NRD’s report in full, you’ll gather that they are not impressed.

All of these reports come in the aftermath of Eurovision 2015, when Aftonbladet alleged that Jarmo Siim, then the head of press for Eurovision, had urged a Greek journalist, through his private Facebook account, to smear the Swedish contestant. Siim resigned following a media storm. He denies any wrongdoing.

Are the wheels coming off of the EBU’s Eurovision team? Does the steady stream of reports and questions undermine the credibility of Jon Ola Sand’s leadership? What questions do you want answered? Let us know in the comments box below.

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[…] cimientos de la EBU; el portal no oficial de Eurovisión de referencia mundial, Wiwibloggs alega en este artículo el escándalo que supuso el despido de la anterior jefa de prensa de Junior Eurovision, Kath […]

ESCaddict
Guest
ESCaddict

EBU should look after people who have ESC & JESC’s best interests at heart. Kath did & look what they did to her. I am disgusted. They effectively fired her earlier by only allowing companies that existed for 3 years take over JESC.
The Eurovision website is terrible, not only for it’s uninteresting content but because it is so awful to use. I rarely ever go there yet I love ESC. That speaks volumes. Sack the company responsible for it. ESC deserves better.
Shame, EBU, shame.

CookyMonzta
Guest
CookyMonzta

@Vladimir P.: But who would conduct the audit?

I imagine a bigger storm will soon follow. It usually does after one whistleblower fires the first shot.

Victor
Guest
Victor

I dont understand what happens with German broadcaster NDR. They can give to Kath the Jobs?

Vladimir P.
Guest
Vladimir P.

I think EBU has become a private club of entitled individuals spending public money with a lack of transparency (btw, there is no such thing as “a great deal of transparency” – transparency is there or it isn’t). Eurovision is a great way for them to fill their own pockets and that is what they have been doing. I bet a finance audit by an independent organization would show money embezzlement and questionable spending, leading to resignations.

Österrike
Guest
Österrike

@Erin: Sietse Bakker will only step down as EBU event manager which is not such a big deal as his role Wow!Works CEO. For his CEO role he will be paid 440.000 Euro annually, and thus the EBU tender is just a setup to look transparent while it is already agreed upon with Wow!Works to move on. So they act transparent, but are indeed corrupted. EBU money is contributed by the member broadcasters and therefore the money of our paid broadcasting fees. With this money Sietse Bakker is paid a living while busily doing nothing, as indicated by the questons… Read more »

mawnck
Guest
mawnck

“cause she was honest?”

Honest about **not paying the volunteers**? You do know what that word means, right?

The rest of it was airing her employer’s dirty laundry in a public forum. (Yes, the Facebook page of a well-known executive certainly does count as public.) It’s a quick and effective way to get fired, in every single organization I’m aware of … the textbook example of a “career-limiting move”.

kris
Guest
kris

No kath???!!!!!! she is JESC’s mother!!! what a big shame!!!! why??!!! cause she was honest???!!!!

Callum Nowacki
Guest
Callum Nowacki

Adding on to my point, we need not fear that Wow!Works will get the position at one of events. I mean, their poor track record with Junior Eurovision does them no favours.

Callum Nowacki
Guest
Callum Nowacki

The EBU shouldn’t allow companies to run the events. Companies will run the event in accordance with how the company is ran, but if an individual is independent from any company, profit or non-profit, they can truly consider how a multi-national contest that takes extreme organisation to pull off is ran. They should have a core team that runs the event, employed and regulated by the EBU, not an external company. That way you can assure all assets/energy is focussed on the Eurovision events at all times. I think Kath had an absolute right to question Sietse, as did NDR… Read more »

Erin
Guest
Erin

On October 16th, Sietse Bakker officially announced he was stepping down as event supervisor after the 2016 Stockholm edition which means that Stockholm will be his final 6th in that capacity. If there’s a suggestion that the EBU’s tender rules were tailor-made for Sietse Bakker’s measurements, then that’s an accusation that has no legs to stand on. What does the EBU gain if its ‘display window’ site is doing it such a disservice as a promotional and PR tool? It seems like Sietse Bakker is one of the few individuals who truly benefited for the past 16 years from associating… Read more »

@EugeneESCUK
Guest

A “great deal of transparency”………………………..is that a direct quote from Ola Sand? How about 100% transparency Ola Sand? Is there something wrong with that? Some fans have been asking for that for years. If you have nothing to hide then be 100% transparent, honest and fair.

You can’t have a “great deal” of honesty or be very honest……………………..you are either HONEST or you are NOT. Simple as!!

Questions
Guest
Questions

In what way way was or wasn’t Sieste or WOWworks involved (in)directly in the process of tender writing? Rumour has it the external consultant knew nothing but really nothing about Eurovision and leaned very heavily on Sieste. If this is true that means a heavy conflict of interests and integrity which should be questioned! If Sieste annouces he is leaving EBU as event manager, how can it be explained his company bids on the tender? How many companies were involved to bid on the tender? Were the rules not too strict or unfair? Publish the tender text please, if only… Read more »

mawnck
Guest
mawnck

“And in the past 7 years winners were Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Germany, Norway – or lobbying, lobbying, lobbying, lobbying, money, lobbying, money, money.” Did you actually *watch* any of the contests? Jeez! ANYHOW … a couple of observations: Ever since I (an American in the media industry) first started following Eurovision about 10 years ago, I’ve thought all the promotion has been surprisingly inept for an international event that’s supposedly such a big deal – especially the videos on the YouTube channel, which tend to be amateurish and riddled with typos and technical errors. (They improved for 2015,… Read more »

MrLitopysec'
Guest
MrLitopysec'

Finally, whole world can now see that EBU is one big fail for sure. Will not be surprised if both contests will die in few years. Jon Ola Sand and co seems to make everything for that for last few years.

Oops
Guest
Oops

FIFA practices, yuk, it smells soooooo bad.

The EBU, the ‘union’ that represents the interests of public service media, is a privately registered company. Transparancy is 0,0

raulescfan
Guest
raulescfan

Let’s say that 2016 will see a 12-countries JESC again… I just hope not…

jr esc nl
Guest
jr esc nl

poor kath she should be the one in charge not sietse…

MTD
Guest
MTD

Oh, finally some dirty clothes are out there, on the open. EBU and Wow!works, all together with anyone involved, showed complete lack of good PR practices for the Eurovision Song Contest in general, me thinks. It was DR and their team back in Copenhagen that gave the ESC brand its power back and injected some freshness. With Vienna, everything came back to its lesser levels. Furthermore, there was always something not right with many of the PR tactics overall, both from EBU and its partners in regards of everything ESC related. Since 2010, ESC is followed by greater scandals than… Read more »

Bumbleflex
Guest
Bumbleflex

What the HELL is happening here? Talk about being UN-PROFESSIONAL geez!