NEWS published on 15 Jun 2023

SRG’s Bakel Walden appointed Chair of Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group

Bakel Walden, Director of Development and Offering at Swiss EBU Member SSR SRG, has been appointed as the new Chair of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group. He takes over the role from ZDF’s Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling who held the post for 13 years.

As the Chair of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, Bakel Walden will play a pivotal role in ensuring that the competition continues to grow and evolve, while remaining true to its core values of diversity and inclusivity.

Bakel, who was elected by the EBU’s Television Committee, has a wealth of experience in the media industry and will be responsible for leading the body which acts as the Eurovision Song Contest’s governing board, overseeing the planning and execution for the world’s largest live music event.

His career in the media industry spans over two decades, and he has held a number of high-level positions over the years. 

Bakel studied Media Planning, Development and Consultancy at the Universities of Siegen (Germany) and Poitiers (France), graduating with an M.A. He also completed an Executive MBA at IMD business school in Lausanne. In 2003, he finished a traineeship as Entertainment Editor at RTL in Cologne. He went on to work in a range of roles in the course of a ten-year career with RTL Group, including as part of the strategy team at their Luxembourg headquarters (2006–2008) and as Head of Programme Planning and Development for its Greek subsidiary Alpha TV (2009–2012).

From 2012 to 2017, Bakel served as the head of SRF's Programme Strategy Division, where he was responsible for optimizing schedules, designing the SRF product range, and analyzing the performance of vectors and content. He later joined SRG's Executive Board as Director of Development and Offering.

As the new Chair of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, Bakel will work closely with the Reference Group's members from across the EBU to help steer the annual production of the event and develop new initiatives and strategies to ensure that the Eurovision Song Contest remains relevant to audiences across Europe and beyond.

Speaking about his appointment, Bakel said: "I am honoured to have been chosen as the new Chair of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group. The Eurovision Song Contest is an iconic event that has been bringing people together for nearly seven decades, and I am excited to join the group at a time when the Contest has never been more popular and impactful. I look forward to working with the Reference Group's members and stakeholders to advance and expand this unique event in an increasingly digital media landscape, while ensuring that the competition continues to be a celebration of music and diversity that unites the world."

162 million TV viewers saw this year’s Eurovision Song Contest from Liverpool in May. Hundreds of millions more engaged with the artists and songs on the Contest’s digital platforms with 540 million views of official videos on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook alone.