Spain in danger of Eurovision disqualification after scheduling snafu at RTVE

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Spanish national broadcaster, RTVE, is in danger of indirectly disqualifying its own Eurovision entrant, former Operación Triunfo finalist Soraya Arnelas, 26, who is already in Moscow, Russia awaiting the final round on Saturday. File:Soraya Arnelas3.jpg

Soraya Arnelas is one of 25 acts waiting to perform at the Eurovision final in Moscow; is her slated performance now in jeopardy?
Image: 20 minutos.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

A last-minute reprieve from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) allowed Spain to vote in the second semi-final instead of the first, due to a televised political debate. RTVE ran a professional tennis match, the Madrid Open matchup between Fernando Verdasco and Juan Mónaco, an hour past schedule Thursday evening, delaying the Eurovision semi-final broadcast and disenfranchising the Spanish viewers ready to vote for their favorite songs.

Spain, as a top monetary contributor to the EBU, automatically qualifies for the final but Spanish viewers were allowed to cast votes for one of the two semi-final rounds, as were the other automatic qualifiers (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and host nation Russia).

The scheduling delay is in violation of the rules set forth to the national broadcasters by the EBU, and punishment could range from a fine incurred by RTVE to complete disqualification for Spain, who was slated to have Soraya perform her song "La noche es para mí" 25th and last in the final Saturday evening.

The newspaper El Mundo speculated that the delay might have occurred on purpose, as RTVE may not want to take the task of hosting the event in 2010 in the event that Spain wins. El Mundo also remarked that the EBU could take a harsher stance toward RTVE if they deem it a case of "voter fraud," as the disenfranchisement of Spanish televoters, replaced with a backup jury, would have changed the result of qualifying nations. In any case, the EBU is the governing body which decides if the delay was intentional or not and what punishments should be given to RTVE for breaking Contest rules.

When asked for comment by the newspaper ABC, RTVE cited "technical difficulties" but did not elaborate further. According to ABC, RTVE's teletext service had announced that the live broadcast would start at 9:45 p.m., 45 minutes after the broadcast started in Moscow, but neither RTVE's website nor its continuity announcements had made note of any change. The Eurovision broadcast started transmission from the beginning on RTVE's "La 2" channel at 10:06 p.m., 66 minutes late.

No public statement has yet been made by the EBU; the EBU went ahead with the scheduled press conference for the ten semi-final winners Thursday evening.


This story has updates
See After uncertain day of Eurovision rehearsals, EBU will place sanctions on Spain and RTVE