Ilanit performing at Eurovision Song Contest 1973

ישראל, דוז פואה? When it comes to Eurovision, Israel certainly hasn’t been on a roll recently. But for now, let’s go back to 1973 – the year the Middle Eastern country made its debut in the contest. Having been picked by the Israeli broadcaster, the singer Ilanit (with her song Ey Sham) had the honour of being the first Israeli representative in the competition. In the light of the terrorist attacks during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich (where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed), her participation required strong safety measures and precautions. All that didn’t stop her from achieving a respectable fourth place.

Since then, Israel has had one of the strongest track records among the participating countries. With Izhar Cohen & the Alphabeta in 1978, Gali Atari & Milk and Honey the year after and ultimately Dana International in 1998 they managed to win the contest a whopping three times. Besides numerous top 10 results Israel has never experienced a last place either.

In the last few years, however, the results haven’t exactly turned out according to Israel’s wishes – even though their entries were often widely appreciated by the ESC fan community. Their last final appearance was in 2010 and even then Harel Skaat’s 14th place was rather disappointing. Unsurprisingly, the viewing figures in Israel haven’t been convincing either.

Israel Broadcast Authority | Picture courtesy: Yonatan Zindel
Israel Broadcast Authority | Picture courtesy: Yonatan Zindel

But the recent poor results don’t seem to be the biggest issue here. The TV station that is responsible for Eurovision is the Israel Broadcast Authority, the IBA. The country’s public broadcaster is currently facing an image crisis of large proportions. Polls suggest that the IBA has the 2nd lowest ratings among public broadcasters in the world – many young Israelis don’t even know it exists. Moreover, the unpopular television tax is used to cover salaries and pensions rather than programme content itself.

Will this affect Israel’s participation at Eurovision?
Unfortunately, that might be an issue indeed. If the bill (proposed by a number of Knesset members) goes through, the IBA will be shut down by March 31, 2015. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the broadcaster will cease to exist after that – plans to continue IBA in a more economical manner will be made. This could mean that Israel may have to sit out for one year but a return in 2016 seems likely in that case.

Could another broadcaster take over the Eurovision duties for Israel?
A broadcaster needs to be an EBU member in order to join Eurovision – currently IBA is the only Israeli member. There are two membership cycles per year – 31 July and 31 January. The latter would surely be too late for the 2015 edition and the former might be too short-notice (considering the IBA hasn’t even made an official announcement regarding Eurovision at this point).

Do you think we’ll see Israel competing and potentially return to its glorious times in Austria next year? ESC United will keep you updated!


Sources: Israel National News | Jerusalem Post | EBU

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