The EBU vs. TRT chapter 1 – what exactly is going on?

The EBU wants TRT back into the Eurovision fold, but TRT is reluctant to return – or are they? No one really knows. The reason cited for not participating was due to the results from unfair jury voting, but it would seem the offical explanation given is merely the tip of the iceberg.

It was in 2011, when Turkey and Armenia, two countries with a large diaspora, failed to qualify to the final of the Eurovision Song Contest by a couple of votes in a semifinal full of technical issues. These issues later led TRT to conclude that televoting for some countries was problematic – unfortunately the countries in question were those in Eastern Europe and those with a large diaspora. Countries felt cheated as juries votes now made up half of the result, while others argued of the fairness behind votes from the diaspora.

Things aren’t the same for the Turkish broadcaster, TRT. As they stated: "If circumstances change, Turkey will be back in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest." Head of TRT İbrahim Şahin commented that "It isn’t fair that the choice of only 3 or 4 people carries the same weight as the votes from millions of viewers". Mr. Şahin may well have a point, as this contest regained some of its integrity following the introduction of the televoting system. But we seem to be merely scratching the surface here  – what else aren’t we aware of?

In 2012, TRT was mulling over its participation at the Eurovision Song Contest, even holding an advisory meeting with musical elites regarding the matter. Ibrahim Şahin is then reported to have said: "We aim to get more points from the countries that usually overlook us, such as Malta. If around 100 mobile phones are distributed to such a small country, it will result in about 4 to 5 points. I hope other countries follow my advice." So is that what Turkey was planning? It probably didn’t help matters with the emergence of the Azeri vote rigging scandal, implicating that countries such as Turkey and Azerbaijan were able to fix votes from small countries such as Malta or Lithuania. The Azeri president was also said to have implied that an investigation would be launched as to how on earth their 12 points to mother Russia could have been mislaid? It was paramount the the EBU should take immediate action, and act they did; they swiftly implemented a rule amendment concerning the publishing of jury results.

It was perceived that relations between the EBU and TRT would have normalised following this amendment, but instead the opposite happened. TRT’s matter hasn’t been resolved as at the last board elections, the EBU ignored TRT, somehow overlooking its voice. TRT declared once again that "Although we were achieving good results at the contest, we previously
signaled that we’re not coming back in 2014, as was the case in 2013; as we were not asked to vote on previous
system changes. Apart from these issues we
are not taken into the elections for the board of management, despite being one of the strongest members in the EBU."
Later on the news leaked to press last summer that the EBU had requested TRT to hold a meeting, involving a visit from one of the EBU heads, Jean Philippot to Ibrahim Şahin. "Today Mr. Philippot expressed their apologies concerning both matters." Şahin said. I later commented on the matter on my personal twitter profile, something that prompted a swift denial from the EBU on my page that any such apologies had been made. I am sorry to say, dear employees of the EBU, but I am not making this story up. It’s deeply regrettable that you the reader had to be find out all the facts by means of Eurovisionary, but then isn’t that what we’re here for?

TRT’s objections continued further; "There are more than 300 international employees in the EBU and only one
of them is a Turk. We are one of the bigger countries in the union, so the EBU
would avoid far more issues such as these (participation at the contest,
elections and etc) if Turkey were better repsresented, facilitating future contact between out two organisations".

We know that the story hasn’t come to an end despite Turkey again staying away from the 2014 contest; I have also been informed by EBU’s page editor on twitter that talks are still ongoing; the EBU still wants Turkey back in the contest as an EBU representative said to me: "We are in dialogue with TRT to gain better understanding of their concerns & hopefully bring them back to the contest soon." 

We will monitor any development in the relations between the EBU and TRT closely, as the matter seems far from over and any number of outcomes possible.

You might want to read the details of the full story in chronological order as explained above:

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