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Photo: EBU

Naef speaks frankly: "I'm not saying it was better, it was different"

From 1978 until 1992 he was the man at the helm of the Eurovision Song Contest. Frank Naef oversaw the organisation of the event and was the EBU's official scrutineer during the voting. Frank retired in 1993 and was in the audience in Millstreet that year when his successor Christian Clausen took the reins. In a rare interview, Frank discussed the development of the Eurovision Song Contest and shared memories of his time as Executive Supervisor.    

The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest is a representative of the EBU and is responsible for the overall organisation of the contest. The Executive Supervisor works closely with the EBU's Television Committee and since it was set up in 1998, the Reference Group, the governing body of the Eurovision Song Contest. The role of the Executive Supervisor also includes working as a scrutineer during the voting, ensuring that it is conducted according to the rules. Since 2011 Jon Ola Sand has held the position.

Frank Naef took over the role in 1978 when the competition was held in Paris. Now aged 83, he is retired and lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Frank continues to watch the Eurovision Song Contest and is impressed at the evolution of the production values of the show. "The special effects which allow each individual singer or group to have a backdrop adapted to the content of their song are remarkable. It's the type of technology you see at the cinema", he said. 

© Dave Goodman (EBU)

During his time in the role, Frank was able to propose changes to the EBU regarding the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest. After Sandra Kim won the competition in 1986, aged just 13 years old, he suggested that the lower age limit should be increased so that there was less pressure on younger performers. The rule change was implemented following the 1989 Eurovision Song Contest.

Frank spoke openly about the differences between the Eurovision Song Contest now and in the years when he worked on the event. "I'm not saying it was better, it was different", he said. One of the regrets he has about the evolution of the show is the implementation of the free language rule in 1999 which meant that performers could sing in the language of their choice. "Nearly everyone sings in English. There are songs which are absolutely more feasible in a national language", he explained. "With the technology and special effects, it has become a worldwide show. Universal. It was a worldwide show before, but not like now", he added.

Next month we will publish the second part of our interview with Frank Naef where he shares his memories of Celine Dion's win for Switzerland in 1988 as well as the now infamous 1991 Eurovision Song Contest.