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Eurovision Song Contest Creates New Director Role Following Review

The organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) have introduced a new director role following an independent report into this year’s competition. It has also been recommended the contest, which is organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), appoint a welfare producer to ensure contestants’ wellbeing.

The new ESC director will report to the EBU’s deputy director general and media director Jean Philip De Tender. They will also oversee the show’s executive supervisor Martin Österdahl. The new director, who has not yet been appointed, will also oversee another new role, the head of ESC brand and commercial, which is also yet to be recruited.

In an interview with Variety about the report, De Tender said that the EBU will now consult its experts and members to determine whether the contest will appoint a welfare producer or implement some other way of supporting the welfare of contestants.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is the biggest entertainment [platform] in the world,” De Tender said. “If you’re Taylor Swift, you take your time to become [as big as] Taylor Swift. When you’re selected to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest, suddenly, in most cases, an artist which is not that well known on a European or a global level, suddenly you stand on that on that stage. And what we’ve learned is that we need to better prepare all of the artists.”

Part of the changes that will be implemented will also include ensuring that artists, theirs delegations and home broadcasters are more aware of the rules and responsibilities they agree to abide by when participating in the contest – including their behavior towards fellow contestants. “We have a duty of care for the artists as well but also the artists need to understand that if you participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, what are the rules you’re contracting to?” De Tender said.

In May, the EBU, which runs the contest, revealed they would be appointing an independent industry expert to review this year’s contest following a handful of controversies, including the expulsion of Netherlands entry Joost Klein on the morning of the Grand Finale for allegedly threatening a female crew member and the reported bullying of Israeli entry Eden Golan by fellow contestants.

Pernille Gaardbo, the expert behind the report, spoke to more than 50 people to prepare the recommendation, including a range of Eurovision stakeholders such as the heads of the delegations from each country, members of the contest’s governing board and the EBU/ESC core team, to assess what could be done differently as the event heads into its 70th anniversary next year.

“The EBU is a non-political organisation or a union of public service media broadcasters in Europe,” De Tender said. “So what we bring is a non-political event. But clearly because the event has become so big, you see that geopolitical tensions can have an impact on the event, that it can have an impact on the artists. We welcome freedom of speech. We have seen [the] demonstrations in Malmo [against the participation of Israel in the contest following the conflict in the Middle East]. As public service media, it’s very important that people can express opinions and views. But the Eurovision Song Contest is non-political and needs to remain non-political.”

“We need to look in reviewing the rules as well as how potentially we can find new ways in mitigating the impact of these external events,” he added. “What we have been doing is very much in line with what international sports federations have been doing. We have the Olympics, which will kick off in a couple of weeks, where exactly the same policies have been followed as what the EU has been doing for the Eurovision Song Contest.”

Other recommendations made in the report, which will now be considered by a taskforce of senior leaders across the EBU, include potentially restricting backstage access and also putting together a dedicated crisis management team.

In a statement accompanying the recommendations, the EBU said: “We are committed to ensuring that the Eurovision Song Contest continues to go from strength to strength and that all stakeholders, not least participating broadcasters and the millions who enjoy the event, can be reassured of our best intentions to maintain the success of this event that brings so much joy to millions around the world.”

For De Tender, who is already looking ahead towards next year’s contest in Switzerland, the report is about “futureproofing” the contest so it can continue to bring joy to future generations through music. “We’ve seen on stage countries at war almost embracing one another because this stage is apolitical,” he said. “So it shows that it’s about respecting one another, respecting the diversity and respecting the inclusion.”

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