Are Eurovision related websites being bribed by EBU? A new case brings the European Broadcasting Union in an uncomfortable situation with paid trips in return for editorial changes on websites whose tone they don’t like.
This is the case laid out by Oikotimes.com in short as Fotis Konstantopoulos, founder and senior editor, explained it to us: He was contacted by Kath Lockett, Media Liaison for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest at EBU, offered a trip to Malta. The trip was offered on behalf of Vladislav Yakovlev, Executive Supervisor for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, and mentioned to be a "thank you to oikotimes for the great support to Junior Eurovision Song Contest". Mr. Konstantopoulos tells us that the offer later on was forwarded to the Maltese broadcaster PBS for implementation.
Mr. Konstantopoulos makes it clear to EuroVisionary that he told both Mrs. Lockett and PBS that the offer must be without any demands towards their coverage. Later EBU withdrew their offer and rejected the accreditation for JESC, apparently because Mr. Konstantopoulos refused to delete a number of articles where EBU didn’t like the tone.
Fotis adds that he is aware of two smaller websites who got the same offer. Whether or not their offer also involved deleting content is unknown.
One side of the story isn’t good enough. If two people are arguing you need both sides so we contacted Kath Lockett for her side of the situation. To EuroVisionary she said: "The JESC team do not sponsor individual journalists or websites and leave that to the discretion of the host broadcaster or any other organisation that journalists or websites wish to contact". Thats a very political answer. She is however not denying that EBU might be involved without directly paying, which could match with Mr. Konstantopoulos’ statement about PBS taking over at a later point. He however also said that he didn’t seek it himself, but was offered it by Mrs. Lockett where she says that websites and journalist contact broadcasters themselves. Obviously as a non involved part, we can’t be sure who is right here.
When it comes to the denial of accreditation after Oikotimes refused to delete their articles, Mrs. Lockett explains: "we will do our best to investigate any journalist, website or writer who has been found to publish insulting comments about a particular child, children or a country of origin and yet seeks accreditation to actively participate in our event".
While we do acknowledge that EBU of course should protect the participating children in the best possible way. We fully respect EBU in this matter. Kath refers to their Code of Ethical Conduct, which can be found on junioreurovision.tv. It doesn’t specifically mention that media who apply for accreditation will be checked by these guidelines, but in an message to our journalist, Charlotte Jensen, Kath refered to this page.
It is no secret that we on EuroVisionary aren’t always in agreement with Oikotimes, and their tone isn’t what we would use. We fully support them in their wish not to delete their coverage, just as we support EBU in their wish to protect the children. If EBU believe that oikotimes is damaging the reputation of the contest and/or any participants surely they should not grant them accreditation. It is not up to us to decide whether or not Oikotimes crossed the line, but when going through some of their JESC articles it appears that they are writing in the same tone as they have used for years. Yes, they can be bitchy, but that is the style they are known for. Nothing new under the sun there.
What appears strange to us, and probably many others, is the fact that the coverage which made Mrs. Lockett approach Mr. Konstantopoulos with the offer of the Malta trip, in the end was what made him unable to receive that, and accreditation for the 2014 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. It can almost look like EBU deliberately offered the trip to websites whose editorial line they were not in agreement with, just to tell them afterwards that a change was neded in order to get the trip. Some might fall for it, edit their articles and using someone else’s money, EBU would have secured themselves positive coverage. It could look like that, but surely EBU wouldn’t be that speculative, would they? EuroVisionary chose to believe that it isn’t the case here, but we don’t like to see that EBU is offering trips, which a broadcaster appears to pay for, but then EBU attach editorial conditions to the gift.
No matter if PBS might be paying, EBU is too deeply involved if they approach websites or journalists with an offer of a free trip as Mr. Konstantopoulos says he was offered by Kath on behalf of someone else within EBU. If it is the journalists who comes to the broadcaster asking for it as Mrs. Lockett indicated, EBU can in no way attach conditions to that, just as it is not up to them to cancel it. In fact they shouldn’t even know about it.
EuroVisionary believe that those sites who accept payment whether it is in cash or in form of paid flights or accommodation should be open about it. The readers deserve to know that the content they are reading might be coloured by that payment. We also believe that EBU should work actively towards making sure the broadcasters doesn’t offer such payments, and in no way should they encourage it or otherwise take part as it appears is happening here.