So last night the United Kingdom came last in Eurovision. A great shame but hardly unpredictable. I thought that Andy Abraham gave a brilliant performance but sadly, as Sir Terry Wogan said at the end, it’s simply no longer (just) a song contest.
I wouldn’t advocate the UK throwing the toys out of the pram over this and doing an Italy by just not taking part anymore as the event is a big ratings winner as we have an innate love of kitsch.
A Place At the Table
It’s worth remembering that we literally paid for a place in the final though and without that placement we’d probably not get through the semi finals anyway. The automatic final placement occurs due to the amount of money the BBC pays into the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) which is calculated as a percentage of each broadcasters total spending and so the BBC naturally becomes one of the big four or five who bankroll the event and who would be willing to stage the final should a previous winning country be economically unable to host the event themselves.
Many have called for the UK to scale back payments into the EBU though there are other benefits to membership such as access to sporting coverage rights and shared access to a knowledge base of broadcasting technologies and practices along with advocacy and agreement on open standards (Mpeg,DVB etc) . The BBC may indeed , at some point have to seriously look at its contributions if it starts to come under further pressure to make savings.
There was a lot of booing in the audience last night over selective examples of political and near neighbour voting and despite the restructuring of the semi finals voting system little has been done to change the present structure of voting in the finals so there is an argument for the return of independent (non democratic?) appointed jury system from each country to perform the final voting.
Does the voting reflect the realities of power in the new Europe, dominated by Eastern Europe? It may still be too early to tell. Eastern European countries have only won five of the last 10 years and Russia, that night’s winner, has never won before (they first entered the contest in 1994). If the skeptics are right then the eastern European bloc vote would go on to disproportionately win the contest over the coming years if the voting system remains the same as at present. But any victor cannot win just by their neighbours votes alone.
I had my favourites. I thought Turkey had the most credible song sounding very much like the Manic Street Preachers whilst Bosnia & Herzegovina had one of the most fruit loopy songs with a staged performance akin to a mini Tim Burton movie. My personal favourite was France’s Sebastien Tellier, already an established Left-field artist who we saw some years ago supporting Air when they were touring. It shows though that even entering a ‘credible’ artist is no guarantee of success as regional loyalties and cultural tastes probably now play a larger part in the final voting malaise.
Listen Without Prejudice?
I hope that we can continue to enjoy the contest even if we do eventually scale back our own involvement. As a culture we’re uncomfortable with winning anyway and would only moan about the cost of staging the event if we did (ala the Olympics). Eurovision just pokes at our collective xenophobic tendencies which doesn’t always hold us in good stead for influencing the future voting in the contest.