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This morning, the EBU announced that 36 will take part in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This number may or may not go up as Slovenia was given a ten day extension to find a suitable sponsor.
Regardless of their decision, this is one of the lowest number of participants since the introduction of the Semi Final system in 2004 and definitely the lowest one since we switched to the two Semi system in 2008.
2004: 36 participants
2014: 36 (or 37)
Before we are going into the bad stuff, let’s celebrate the return of two countries. Portugal withdrew in 2013 due to financial reasons but is back and (hopefully) here to stay. In addition, Poland withdrew in 2012 citing the Euro Cup hosting duties as their reason and also satt out the following year. So we are all more than happy to welcome them back to Eurovision and wish them the best of luck in Copenhagen.
Now let’s focus on the bad news. While the low number of participants doesn’t really come as a suprrise, as a helpless optimist I was hoping for one (or maybe two) miracles. But they didn’t happen and basically all countries that previously announced their withdrawal, ended up sitting out in 2014.
Croatia won’t be in Copenhagen due to organizational reasons. Other countries such as Serbia, Cyprus and Bulgaria all decided to take a break citing financial difficulties as the deciding factor.
I am not going to lie, as a die-hard fan my heart is aching and knowing that all these countries decided to stay home just doesn’t feel right. The first pep talk I gave myself was “Well, it always should be quality over quantity”. But then I stopped myself thinking “Based on what?!?” What is the criteria at a song contest determining what deserves the “Quality” title? And let’s say there is such a thing, can we really point fingers at certain countries saying “You don’t add that much value to the contest”.?
Eurovision to me is more than just the music (Don’t get me wrong, it’s a HUGE part of it) but what sets the contest apart is the cultural diversity and the unity that it brings to Pan-Europe. So having a bunch of countries watching from the sidelines just doesn’t feel right.
The next thing we all want to do (myself included) is to point fingers and determine whose fault it is. The easy answer is always “It’s the EBU”. The Bulgarian broadcaster recently said that the participation fees have doubled since their first appearance in 2005. For a small broadcaster that’s quite significant. However considering that the EBU has also bills to pay and as Jon Ola Sand, the Executive Supervisor said “A broadcaster that participates in the Eurovision Song Contest gets 7,5 hours of high quality live entertainment on prime time, bringing high ratings and a lot of excitement amongst the public.”
We all enjoy the world of Show Business but as by definition it has the SHOW aspect to it and in this case the BUSINESS part was just too much for some broadcasters and the EBU was unable to cut down the costs even further. “The EBU froze participation fees for 2014 compared to last year. In 2013 we already shortened the rehearsal schedule with a day, cutting costs for delegations staying in the host city. This year, host broadcaster DR and their local partners negotiated sharp hotel prices.” said Mr. Sand.
So while we all want as many countries to take part, the Eurovision Song Contest is not a charity event (that’s a separate editorial for another day) and every broadcaster’s circumstances are different so I want to caution running into conclusions. Turkey’s situation is completely different thant Bulgaria’s struggles and putting blame on one party, whether it is the EBU, a particular broadcaster or third party….. may be counterproductive.
Some people even threw around the idea of switching from two Semis to only one considering that with 36 participants we’ll only have 15 songs per Semi. To me that idea seems unreasonable for several different reasons. First of all, the dates are already set and you can’t just cancel a Semi just like that. Knowing the contest and what’s going on behind the scenes , everything is already in the works and it wouldn’t only be wasteful but also logistically incredibly difficult. In addition, did any of you really like the one Semi system? The Top 10 from the previous year would automatically qualify for the Finals while the remaining 20 countries would battle it out for the 10 Finals spots. That means the odds of qualifying for each country would dramatically decrease and I personally would hate to see that happen.
My hope is that 2014 is just a fluke and that next year the number of participants will go up significantly. The fact that we’ll be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the contest may result in a nice boost so as a fan I am incredibly disappointed with the low number but am hopeful of a bright Eurovision future.
We would like to hear from you though as we are planning to do a follow up article highlighting your thoughts on this subject. Please join our Forum and post your comments HERE. You can also send us your comments on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.