Eurovision Song Contest Mooting Rule Changes to Prohibit "Any Form of Political Propaganda"

Michael Campanella
Jamala's 2016 win paved the way for Ukraine to host Eurovision

Ukraine's ban on Russia's Julia Samoylova at this year's event in Kiev has prompted new regulations, report says.

The organizer of the Eurovision Song Contest, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), is  planning changes to the rules that govern the annual international music competition after controversy marred Ukraine's hosting of the event earlier this year, a top Eurovision community site says.

Russia withdrew from the competition after Ukraine banned its contestant, Julia Samoylova, after authorities said she was subject to a two-year exclusion order after allegedly illegally entering Crimea via Russia, which is forbidden under Ukrainian law. Ukraine disputes the legality of Russia's seizure of the Ukrainian territory in 2014, which Moscow claims was later legitimized by a referendum, in which the population of the Crimean peninsula voted overwhelming in favor of being incorporated into Russia.

It was this incident, along with widely reported deficiencies in preparing for the Kiev contest, that is prompting changes to the rules for future Eurovision events, ESCtoday says.

"Undoubtedly, the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest in [Kiev] saw a number of undesirable incidents, many of which almost saw the potential movement of the event outside the host country of Ukraine," the site states. "The most unpleasant issue that occurred in this year's Eurovision was the ban of the Russian representative from entering the host country by the Ukrainian authorities."

Referring to "a small part of the EBU information file" made public by German broadcaster ARD, ESCtoday says the new EBU stance will make clear that there is no room for politics in the Eurovision contest. The rule changes will stress that acts and delegations proposed for the Eurovision contest must be free of any legal impediment to traveling to a host country.

It is also likely that any form of political content in songs will be strictly prohibited.

Last year's Ukrainian entry Susana Jamaladinova's song 1944 was criticized for lyrics that were allegedly anti-Russian as it referred, obliquely, to wartime deportation of ethnic Tatars from Crimea ordered by Stalin. The EBU cleared the song, allowing Jamala to perform in the contest, which she went on to win.

The planned new rules, which are set to significantly tighten up on political and organizational regulations, are designed to prevent future controversies.

Apart from banning any political references in songs, host broadcasters must ensure no commercial, brand, product or service promotion occurs during the event, ESCtoday claims.

The new rules, it says, will ensure national juries are strictly independent, with no relation to the artists or songs that could affect the final outcome. Juries will be told they must not reveal in advance their preferences or voting intentions.

Better time-tabling is also set to  become a feature of future Eurovision contests, with stricter rules to ensure host broadcaster compliance with agreed timetables and sanctions for failure that may include handing broadcast rights to another company.

The EBU told The Hollywood Reporter that "the rules for the song contest will be published in due course, but nothing official has been released by the EBU at this time."

An EBU spokesman added: "Each year the EBU reviews the rules and regulations of the Eurovision Song Contest and, where necessary, adjustments are made. This is to allow the competition to run smoothly, remain fair for all participating broadcasters and to ensure the contest is enjoyable for millions of viewers worldwide."

This article was amended on August 3 to include the EBU's official statement.

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