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Sietse Bakker: Eurovision Brings Europe Together

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/03/2016 David Thielen

Sietse Bakker is the event supervisor of Eurovision for the EBU. He also does about 83 other things for the EBU on Eurovision. He's the key person for the entire event. He was nice enough to squeeze in ½ hour to talk with us. (He also talked with me in 2014 & 2015 so I did not revisit any of those questions.)

My first question was on security. He understandably could not speak to the details. But he said that they have been working on this pretty much from the day after Sweden won. They do realize that it is an obvious target for terrorists and will do everything they can to insure that nothing happens. And they have treated it seriously since 2011. (I hope they do better than Malmo where they only put half the people through a metal detector.)
He next spoke about Eurovision being a force for unity in Europe. That was why it was first created and what it has always been. He sees Eurovision as a common thread throughout Europe. Everyone watches it, everyone talks to each other about it. And people know that in every other country people there are doing the same thing. The nights of the shows everyone is a European.
I next asked if the right act won last year when the televoters overwhelming supported Italy while the jury put them 6th. He made the self-admittedly politically correct answer that Sweden won because that is how the voting is structured. And the system determines the winner.
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He said that they are always looking at how the voting plays out. He referenced the UK a couple of years ago where the televote was overwhelming for Poland (the above picture displays the two large reasons the UK voted so strongly for Poland) and when the jury vote was added in, it dropped the combined score for Poland significantly. Anyways, they're clearly thinking about how to improve it.
Which led to a question about the new voting this year. I asked if he thought the tension will remain since it takes a big difference to move the scores noticeably. Sietse said that he thinks the winner will remain uncertain until the last 2 or 3 are announced from the televote. (This depends on most people being bad at math - and they are.)
Next I asked when does a song become too political. He first pointed out that what is political is always a subjective decision (fair point). Second it's a decision of the reference group, not the EBU. So they're the ones that need to determine if a song is too political.
They have not decided if Australia will be permanent. And the Asia-Pacific Song Contest SBS is putting on might also be a route where the winner of that contest comes each year.
I then asked about North America having an entry. He said that fundamentally it requires a broadcaster deciding to make it happen. And that will take time. He said the buzz about Eurovision is spreading and as people outside of Europe learn about it, the interest could grow to the point where it makes sense.
Really interesting that he said nothing will happen this year. That leaves the distinct possibility that they're working on something for next year with a broadcaster.
I then asked about bringing more European countries to the contest. He said they have several people at EBU who spend all year working to keep the participating countries continuing and talking to the others trying to get them to join in. He said sometimes it's not the cost but scheduling reasons. And they have to put in the effort to find a good act which can be challenging. He mentioned Turkey specifically about this.
He closed out saying that wiwibloggs puts out a lot of fun content and is looking forward to seeing us in Stockholm. And that they have a lot of amazing acts lines up for us.

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