During the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel on 14 May 2019, one of my students asked me what I thought of Australia being in it. When I was still living in Brisbane, I always looked forward to watching it as I found all participants talented; many were creative, and some were outlandish. Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), whose mission is “to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society”, covers this event every year. After I had said to my student that it should not be in it based on geography, I did some research.
Participation in the Eurovision contest is, firstly, open to those who belong to the 56 member- countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and its 21 associate member-nations. Therefore, participation is not by geography, which makes the title of the event “Eurovision” misleading and susceptible to innuendo. In 2019, 42 countries travelled to Israel and 36 of them performed in the semi-finals to qualify for the finals. Every year, the so-called “Big Five” – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom – are prequalified to take part in the finals.
Australia has been in the Eurovision Song Contest five times since its debut in 2015 in Vienna, which was to be a one-off event; however, its participation has been confirmed until 2023 by the EBU. Its best result in the contest is a second-place for Dami Im in 2016. It finished in the top ten in three of its other appearances: Guy Sebastian finishing fifth in 2015, and both Isaiah Firebrace and Kate Miller-Heidke finishing ninth in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Most points it received in the finals were from Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland) and Hungary. Australia always got better scores from the jury than TV spectators. Do you think that a country down under can win the votes of political and sentimental Europe? As well, it has been announced publicly that if it won, it wouldn’t host the contest but Germany or the UK. Hence, the question whether Australia should be in the Eurovision is not for me to answer (though Australian by citizenship) but by the Australian Government and taxpayers. (It should be noted that Australian-born individuals have been involved in Eurovision since its inception as song writers and musicians for other countries, particularly the UK).
Israel (since 1973), Cyprus (since 1981) and Armenia (since 2006) have competed in the Eurovision even though they are outside the geographical boundaries of Europe. My French student of Muslim faith told us two weeks ago that she had watched some Eurovision events where middle-eastern countries blocked out or put a flower vase on their TV screens during an Israeli performance. She added, “Israel has to be in the Eurovision as it can’t have a friendly competition with its neighbours”.
According to Latto, A. et al (https://www.theguardian.com /notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-1900,00.html), the EBU membership is primarily to organisations in the area defined by the International Telecommunications Union, which extends from the Atlantic to the meridian 40-degree east and bounded on the south by the 30th parallel. Jerusalem, the official headquarters of Israeli Television, is 35-degree east and on the 32nd parallel. “This definition also allows for participation by Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, the Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia”. Except for a one-time participation by Morocco in 1980, the other countries have not participated on principle.
Is it possible to change the name of this annual musical extravaganza? How about calling it —Vision for Cooperation and Peace through Music; Europe and Friends’ Musical Contest; Incluvision Musical Contest; Selective Diversity Musical Contest; or EBUvision Contest?
Please add your ideas on the above list. Have fun doing it …