Shortly after the final of Eurovision 2021, TV-quality videos of the semi-final and grand final jury shows started appearing on the Russian social network site VK. This footage is generally only available for the professional juries that each broadcaster has appointed. These were just the latest in a series of Eurovision leaks on the popular website. In the run-up to the contest, many songs were shared ahead of their official release dates and times.
In the latest episode of the Russian podcast Welcome, Europe!, a group of VK microbloggers discussed the topic of the Eurovision leaks.
Note: The podcasters never endorse the leaking of songs. In fact, they discuss the ways that the EBU can and should protect their feed. They’re simply chatting with someone who has leaked songs previously to gain insight and seek solutions.
Eurovision leaks on VK
Social network site VK — a Russian equivalent of Facebook — stirred controversy multiple times throughout the Eurovision 2021 season. About a quarter of the songs from Eurovision 2021 leaked on the social network site prior to their official release. Additionally, several national final songs also appeared on the social media site ahead of schedule.
Ukrainian Eurovision microblogger Denis explained in the Welcome, Europe! podcast that using a VPN in a country close to the international date line (IDL) can help to retrieve a song that has yet to be released in Europe. Most streaming services publish a given song at midnight on the release day. Typically, it doesn’t matter where you are, as long it’s past midnight in your geographical location.
As a result, a song might be found online as early as 11:00 in parts of Europe the day before its scheduled release on music streaming platforms. At that time, it’s the official release day in Kiribati, the country closest to the IDL. Following a pattern, most leaks were songs that were set to be premiered on music streaming services. All the leaked songs were indeed published on VK between 11:00 and 12:00 CET the day before release.
This problem did not occur with the highly anticipated release of The Roop‘s Eurovision 2021 song “Discoteque” as the song was specifically programmed to be released at 00:00 Vilnius time, rather than midnight at any given place in the world.
?? “It shows how great the anticipation is when it comes to how much people want to hear this song.”
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) March 12, 2021
The other VK microbloggers on the podcast, Dima and Yauhen (who are not leakers themselves), explained that the situation with the Iceland leak through VK was slightly different. Unlike the other songs, “10 Years” was not found on purpose. Instead, a group of Russian hackers appeared to have found the song by accident and then shared it with Eurovision fans they found on the social network.
Denis shared that it was particularly easy for leakers to find Ana Soklič’s “Amen”. The Slovenian broadcaster RTVSLO gave every file a unique ID. The leakers only had to play with numbers for a bit to find the song among RTVSLO’s files.
Accessing Eurovision jury shows via satellite feeds
Ukrainian microblogger Denis revealed that he was able to access the satellite signal that the EBU sent to the separate broadcasters.
The student said that he started satellite feed hunting out of curiosity and tried his luck to see if he could find any Eurovision-related signals. He was lucky and managed to watched the jury shows of both the semi-final and grand final via his satellite dish. He later shared them on VK.
In the Welcome, Europe! podcast, Denis explained:
“It’s actually quite simple. It’s a known case that the EBU needs to broadcast the contest over a great distance with an active quality, with a good sound, because many television companies in Europe work with stereo sound. It’s to plunge into the same atmosphere of the sound as in the venue.”
“The EBU needs to show images to all the broadcasters that participate in the contest or those who want to show it. Therefore, the EBU lifts up a technical channel on the satellite of the times, which they turn on and off whenever they need or don’t need it for the broadcasters. There, you might see the dress rehearsals each day with an excellent quality — without all these watermarks. However, there is one problem. Because it’s a technical channel, you need a large dish, and the signal is quite unstable.”
The jury shows are generally restricted to the public to not spoil the fun of the show on the next day. In 2016, a member of the Russian professional jury was stripped from her duty after she shared images of the show on the streaming app Periscope.
What is satellite feed hunting?
Satellite feed hunting is only practised by a handful of hobbyists who invest in good satellite dishes and several receivers. With this, they can catch satellite signals intended for communication between broadcasters or between newsrooms and satellite vans.
Generally, these hobbyists look for live signals and watch them, sometimes sharing good ones on special forums. Most reporters and journalists working with satellite connections are unaware of the practice. In 2019, a Russian satellite feed hunter caught a live signal from the UK commentator booth with Scott Mills and Rylan Clark-Neal just before they went on air.
Do you think that the EBU should put better measures in place to protect the satellite feeds? Should broadcasters be more careful with their streaming release dates? Let us know in the comments below!