Eurovision to ban broadcasters for contest vote-fixing
National broadcasters in countries where Eurovision Song Contest vote rigging occurs will face a three-year ban from the competition, organisers said Thursday.
The goal is to prevent a repeat of past scandals, including over voting in Azerbaijan and Lithuania during last year's edition in Sweden.
"Just as football clubs are in principle accountable for the behaviour of their fans, we will hold -- on a case-by-case basis -- participating broadcasters accountable and make them responsible to prevent voting irregularities in favour of their entry," Frank Dieter Freiling, head of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group that governs the contest, said in a statement.
Allegations of vote-fixing surfaced after the surprise failure of Azerbaijan to award any points to neighbouring Russia -- known in Eurovision-speak as a "nul points" -- even though ex-Soviet republics regularly give each other top marks.
There were also claims of attempts in Lithuania to buy votes for Azerbaijan's entry.
The European Broadcasting Union -- the federation of public television stations that oversees the contest -- launched a probe.
It found that while there were attempts to rig the vote, they failed thanks to Eurovision security measures.
In addition, it found no evidence of any improper activity by a broadcaster or even awareness of wrongdoing.
But to head off the risk, organisers have decided to tighten measures to ensure voting integrity.
"If voting irregularities are detected before, during or after the contest in favour of any represented country, the Reference Group will automatically initiate procedures which carry a penalty of exclusion of the respective participating broadcaster from the contest for a maximum of three consecutive years," they said.
After years of complaints mainly in West European nations about supposedly being hurt by public voting based on national ties not music in ex-communist countries, contest organisers changed the rules in 2009.
Since then, half of each country's vote has been from the public and half from a national jury of music industry professionals.
In September last year, the European Broadcasting Union tightened the rules governing jury votes, requiring regular rotation of jurors and increasing transparency over each individual's vote.
The news rules will be applied at this year's edition being held in May in Denmark, winner of the 2013 contest.
© 2014 AFP