After uncertain day of Eurovision rehearsals, EBU will place sanctions on Spain and RTVE

Friday, May 15, 2009

After a tense day of rehearsals, in which Spanish national broadcaster RTVE said publicly that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) would not be imposing sanctions on them for pre-empting the second live Eurovision semi-final, the EBU has made an official statement, contradicting RTVE and announcing that sanctions will be placed on Spain. This year's act, former Operación Triunfo finalist Soraya Arnelas, will not be affected by the EBU ruling, and she will be allowed to perform her song "La noche es para mí" in Moscow as scheduled on Saturday.

Soraya Arnelas's spot in the Eurovision final on Saturday is safe, but RTVE will still face consequences for its transgressions.
Photo: 20 minutos

By late Friday evening, the newspaper ABC announced that while RTVE and the EBU were in talks all day, it looked as if Soraya's spot would not be in danger, as she participated in dress rehearsals during the afternoon. Later, the EBU released their statement, which says in part, "Spanish broadcaster [RTVE] did not broadcast the second Semi-Final (Thursday, 14th of May) of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest live, despite the fact that this is mandatory by the Rules of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest...The Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest will decide upon a sanction in its next meeting, after this year's competition."

The newspaper El Mundo was the first to publish statements from RTVE representatives, in which they were quoted as saying "La UER no va a tomar medidas" ("The EBU is not going to take action") and "No va a haber ningún tipo de sanción" ("There will be no sanctions"). When asked why the Eurovision semi-final was deferred, disenfranchising the Spanish voters, RTVE responded, "We chose the least damaging option possible." El Mundo noted that Spanish Eurovision fans disagreed, with such a high volume of negative sentiment that RTVE's Eurovision fan message boards crashed. The Eurovision Song Contest is a very popular annual event in Spain; more than 80% of all households watch the shows each year.

RTVE is no stranger to controversy this week; on Wednesday the network came under fire for fan reaction to the Spanish national anthem being played before the Copa del Rey soccer matchup between Athletic de Bilbao and Barcelona, two teams located in secessionist regions of Spain (Catalonia and the Basque Country). During the telecast of the anthem, fans yelled out anti-Spanish insults and slurs against King Juan Carlos I, and nationalist flags were shown on-air. RTVE's sports director was immediately fired for the incident. An opinion piece in El Mundo called for more resignations at RTVE as they drew parallels in terms of incompetence between the Eurovision event and the Copa del Rey event.