He’s the long-serving Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now, as he prepares to move onto pastures new, Jon Ola Sand has reflected on his ten-year tenure in an interview with Dutch portal AD.
Jon Ola Sand AD interview
Eurovision 2020 in the Netherlands
Jon Ola has full confidence in the Dutch and their capacity to produce a contest as big as Eurovision. “I think it will be a great, creative, advanced production. Expect a lot of technical highlights. As the country that has devised plenty of TV formats, such as The Voice, the Netherlands naturally also has a reputation to uphold. It is easier to work here for the EBU than other past hosts, where there was less experience with large live shows. The Dutch have a strong reputation in TV production, and you will see that.”
Albeit the television executive kept schtum on specifics: “I am not going to say too much about it right now, but I can say that something of a Rotterdam vibe will be heard across all the show. Their art, culture, and history of reconstruction.”
— Jon Ola Sand (@jonolasand) January 16, 2020
Sand, however, holds a strong stance on one key element of the show: humour. While the Dutch broadcaster aims for a more relaxed production, he is wary. “A lighter presentation is fine for me. But humour doesn’t travel, I always say. What the Netherlands thinks is hilarious, other nations may not see as. You saw that for example in the Swedes who had really fantastic shows, but where the jokes did not come across universally.”
Changes through the years
He also talks about some of the biggest changes he’s seen in the contest. “The abolition of the live orchestra created space for more participants. Organizing a show with 41 countries with a live orchestra was just too complex. Another important change was the comeback of the professional jury. In the years that only viewers determined the outcome, it was more and more about the statement. Now that there are again juries, the time of the singing turkeys on stage is over. The music takes center spot. Also, the entrance of Eastern European countries. They brought new life, they took it very seriously back when it was diminished somewhat in Western countries.”
The singing turkey refers, of course, to Ireland’s infamous 2008 entry — Dustin the Turkey with “Irelande Douze Points”.
Political and bloc voting
However, he has recognized the different dynamics some Eastern European countries may have: the quirks between the Balkan, Caucasus and ex-USSR blocs, namely tensions between countries that downvote each other for reasons that go beyond the musical.
“That is indeed not good, but what should we do? Throw out those countries? We can’t. We are already proud that they are on the same stage. We want to keep them on board and hope to change the situation again in discussions and dialogues. We have often thought about a different scoring in recent years. Twenty five percent for the professional jury and 75 percent for the public, for example. Or vice versa. But we think the current fifty-fifty distribution is the best. And I do think that any unbalanced distribution has since been compensated by the reintroduction of professional juries.”
Participants from North Africa and the Middle East
And lastly, he touched on increasing the number of participants at Eurovision. It’s a constant topic on the Supervisor’s table, especially in regards to the countries in North Africa and the Middle East. These include Jordan, Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon, the last of which came close to debuting in 2005. Morocco competed once in 1980. With a contest of such magnitude, he would recommend to both keep a regular scale, but also keep an open mind.
“We have 41 countries this year and we would be at our limit with 44. We just can’t get a bigger festival organised in one year. While I personally would be in favor of accepting Middle Eastern entries and make Eurovision more varied, I have received no signals from them. We do have regular conversations with Morocco, who may be in for it again in the future. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say no to an EBU member who wanted to participate.”
Eurovision 2020 will be Jon Ola Sand’s last contest as Executive Supervisor. Martin Österdahl takes the helm of Executive Supervisor from 2021.
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