During the ORF- Dialog Forum on Tuesday, a panel of experts discussed Eurovision and whether or not the popular contest has a political bias.
German Author Irving Wolther said that political messages are usually not allowed but that history has proven on multiple occasions, that this hasn’t been the case. He pointed out that the concept of countries judging other countries, is political in its nature.
Several songs had political messages that were accepted as it wasn’t always cut and dry. One example that was pointed out is the Greek entry from 1976 which is a response to the annexation of Northern Cyprus from Turkey. The winning song from 1961 “Nouse les amoureux” by Jean Claude Pascal, was allegedly a song about same-sex relationships, something rather controversial back in the old days.
Historian Dean Vuletic from the University of Vienna agrees saying that the contest has always been a reflection of European politics. He also adds the question why certain countries choose not to take par these days including Bosnia & Herzegovina, Turkey, Slovakia and Croatia.
Using Turkey as an example, they decided to withdraw from the contest citing the Big 5 as one of the reasons and started their own contest called Turkvision. Some drew comparison between Eurovision and recent political landscape between the EU and Turkey.
Russia considered withdrawal from the contest after Conchita Wurst’s smashing victory in 2014 and starting its own Intervision to revive the Cold War times. Vuletic continued pointing out that borders are not just geographical but also technological referring to the EBU Broadcasting Zone. Any country that falls within that area, which includes several Northern African and Eurasian countries, are eligible to take part.
Harald Huber, an Austrian Professor at the “Uni fuer Musikd un angewandte Kunst” in Vienna said that while the contest isn’t created for political song per se. However, however it is a tool to bring awareness to it. Udo Juergens, who represented Austria three years in a row in the 60’s, often inserted sociopolitical messages into his music. If it’s done right, music can be a catalyst.
ORF Executive Producer Edgar Boehm pointed out that in times where conflicts are happening all over the continent and world, this years Motto “Building Bridges” in itself is a strong statement which was embraced by International delegations. The intent is for Austria to be considered a charming host and as a modern and open-minded country.
Some disagreements among the panelists occurred during the free language debate. As of 1999, all countries can sing in any language rather than their native only. That rule is allegedly decreasing diversity but Dean Vuletic disagreed. The reason for the domination of English songs is just a reflection of how times have changed and the contest is just keeping up with it. In the early years, the French language was the go-to language and countries like France and Luxembourg scored big during those days.
With Finland and Poland sending artists with disabilities, Edgar Boehm added that for the first time a Sign Language Interpreter is going to be available to translate the entire show.
Another question that was raised during the Forum was about the size of the contest and how big it has gotten over the years. The criticism that smaller or less rich countries wouldn’t be able to afford hosting the contest, were denied. Author Wolther advised that even smaller countries will be able to cover the costs. Just the ability to present your country to the world in such a format, is a unique opportunity that should not be missed and any other major events would not be given to those countries so this would be their opportunity to stand out. Estonia won the contest and showed the world in 2002 what a modern and almost-Scandinavian country they have become and that image stuck.
You can read the full article by Christian Koerber in German HERE.