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Mass staff walk-out at troubled Eurovision 2017

With less than three months to go, several top-level organising staff have resigned from ESC 2017, citing differences with newly appointed director-general Pavlo Grytsak

By Jon Chapple on 15 Feb 2017

Jamala, Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2017, Anna Velikova/EBU

ESC 2016 winner Jamala

image © Anna Velikova/EBU

Twenty-one senior members of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2017 organising committee, including two executive producers, the commercial director, the event manager and the head of security, have resigned en masse.

In an open letter, published on Ukrainian website Strana, the former staff say they were shut out of the organisation of the contest following the appointment of a “new head of the competition” – presumably Pavlo Grytsak, although he is not named – last December, whereupon “the work of our team was completely blocked”.

Following Grystak’s appointment, says the letter, work on the contest “stopped for two months”, while an alternative “proposal on the distribution of powers and responsibilities” by the future resignees was rejected. “Therefore, we regret to inform you that our team can not accept such an appointment, and do not see the possibility of continuing their work on Eurovision in Ukraine,” it concludes.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organisation behind Eurovision, announced last week ticket sales had been postponed amid a dispute over the Ukrainian authorities’ choice of ticket agency. Tickets eventually went on sale yesterday, with the original winner of the contract, Concert.ua, restored to its role as the event’s ticketing partner.

It was reported in December, meanwhile – prior to Gystsak’s appointment – that the EBU had made threats to strip Ukraine of ESC 2017 over concerns about ticketing, travel arrangements and infrastructure, although executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said had “full confidence in [host broadcaster NTU] to overcome the challenges that remain”.

“We have reiterated the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes”

A statement from the EBU says the contest will go ahead in May as planned.

“Victoria Romanova, Oleksandr Kharebin, Iryna Asman, Denys Bloshchynski and his team and Oleksii Karaban informed the EBU on 10 February that they were resigning from their roles for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest,” it reads. “The group felt they were not able to continue work on the project owing to staffing matters at [Ukrainian public broadcaster] UA:PBC, which the EBU cannot fully comment on.

“The team have been instrumental in the planning for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and we thank them for their hard work. We have reiterated to UA:PBC the importance of a speedy and efficient implementation of plans already agreed, despite staff changes, and that we stick to the timeline and milestones that have been established and approved by the reference group to ensure a successful contest in May.”

ESC 2017 will take place from 9 to 13 May at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev. The winner of last year’s contest, which introduced a new scoring system, was Ukrainian singer Jamala, with ‘1944’.


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