Executive Supervisor goes in-depth on prevention of cheating
Earlier today, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced that broadcasters would be required to take greater responsibility to ensure fair voting in the Eurovision Song Contest. The change follows the conclusion of an investigation into registered attempts to unfairly influence the televoting in the 2013 contest. Eurovision.tv spoke with Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the contest on behalf of the EBU.
The EBU has concluded its investigation into attempts to unfairly influence the voting in favour of Azerbaijan. How was that investigation conducted?
We did everything you may expect when something like this happens, ranging from research to interviews, to corresponding and talking with our Azeri Member Ictimai TV, to data analysis. Along the way, our goal has been to end these attempts and to achieve that, we had to understand what happened. We took our time to conduct a thorough investigation.
Some fans suggested that the EBU should report these incidents to the police. Did that happen?
Trying to unfairly influence the results of the Eurovision Song Contest may be against the Rules, which apply to the participating broadcaster, but it is not against the law when initiated by a person on the street. In the Eurovision Song Contest organisation, we have procedures in place to deal with such attempts.
For those unfamiliar with these procedures can you explain more?
After we finished the investigation, the conclusions were presented to the Reference Group. This group consists of broadcaster representatives who oversee the Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of the participating broadcasters. The Reference Group is entitled to propose, for example, rule changes and sanctions to the so-called Television Committee, which oversees the overall work of the EBU on behalf of its Member Broadcasters. They can then decide on sanctions as recommended by the Reference Group. A sanctioned broadcaster also has the right to an appeal procedure to the Television Committee and the EBU's Executive Board.
Why didn't the Reference Group propose sanctioning the national broadcaster in Azerbaijan, Ictimai TV?
We concluded that there is no evidence that Ictimai TV had been involved with, or had been aware of the attempts. But the EBU and the Reference Group also want to protect the contest from unfair practice. It was therefore decided to hold each broadcaster more strictly accountable for any wrongdoing in favour of their entry, no matter where it comes from, and to automatically propose exclusion from the contest in case we detect cheating attempts.
What do the conclusions of the investigation mean for the result of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest?
The attempts were detected by our systems and the votes declared invalid. This means that the results of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest are valid as confirmed by our voting partner Digame and PwC observers.
How do you ensure such things will not happen in the future?
We keep improving our systems to spot any attempt to tamper with the voting. During the contest, more than 70 people gather at a central location to oversee every detail of the jury and televoting, and to make sure the rules are being followed.
It's our goal to do the best we can to assure a fair and correct result. We know that audiences in Europe want a fair result and vote with their best intentions, but in nearly every competition, there are attempts to cheat. It's our job to spot and stop these attempts.
Does the conclusion of the Reference Group also apply to the jury voting?
In September, the Reference Group adopted measures to strengthen the jury voting system and to create more openness. The decision of the Reference Group applies to jury and televoting.