Why Eurovision needs to be saved from the BBC

It’s not cool to be snobbish about the world’s biggest talent contest – it just makes Britain look ridiculous

18 May 2013

9:00 AM

18 May 2013

9:00 AM

Britain is a stickler for tradition and each May we now observe a relatively new one: we bomb in the Eurovision Song Contest. The protocol now is well-established. Our entry is chosen by a BBC bureaucrat who appears to see the whole thing as a bad joke. We send out Bonnie Tyler/Engelbert Humperdinck etc to face an army of talent from countries who have studied the art of winning and take it very seriously indeed.

Electro Velvet (more on them here) can at least reassure themselves that they will not be Britain’s worst-ever entry. That honour goes to Jemini, a Liverpudlian duo who in 2003 made history by being given nul points by tout le monde. Since then, Britain has come to specialise in abject Eurovision failure, having finished last three times in the past decade. We’re guaranteed a place in the final, because of the sheer amount of money that the BBC pays to secure its Eurovision membership. Its actual presentation of Eurovision is pretty good; Graham Norton and Paddy O’Connell are great presenters. The problem lies in its selecting our entry without any competition. It’s no coincidence that our entries range from the quotidian to the appalling. We don’t do badly because Britain is politically friendless, but because the music we enter is awful.

This would be understandable if Britain, as a country, struggled to export music. But we do so better than anyone. The BBC News summed up the irony rather well in a report straight after our 2015 humiliation:-

“Over the past five years, Britain has produced some of the biggest chart-topping acts on the planet from Adele to One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith. But in nearly two decades, it has failed to produce a single winner of Eurovision.”

It would have been more accurate to say that the BBC has failed to produce a winner. This is nothing to do with a lack of national talent; Britain is an exporter of talent contests as well as talent. We are the country of The X Factor and of Simon Fuller, the man behind the Arab version of Eurovision. And yet we entrust Eurovision, the world’s biggest talent show, to the BBC, which projects it as a risible festival of high camp, a musical version of a bad-taste party.


In May 2013, a discussion was held at the Swedish Embassy in London about where Britain went so wrong. I had the honour of moderating the talks. The panel included Kevin Bishop, a BBC man who produced the Terry Wogan’s Eurovision evenings and Svante Stockselius, who rescued Sweden’s equivalent from similar ridicule ten years ago. The keynote speaker was Katrina Leskanich, the singer who with her backing group the Waves won for Britain in 1997 by the highest margin in Eurovision history. She put her success down to Jonathan King, the pop impresario who was perhaps the last person the BBC hired who knew how to win competitions. The corporation now seems -utterly lost.

Rather than defend the BBC, Mr Bishop confirmed our suspicions. The corporation is useless at entertainment, he said, and no longer has anyone in its hierarchy who understands it. This is a self-reinforcing problem, warned Mr Stockselius, because the BBC decides how Eurovision is presented in Britain. If it sends dreadful acts to compete, and then holds the entire contest up to ridicule, then our successful singers will not be seen dead on a Eurovision stage. Katrina wanted to know the name of whoever chooses the BBC’s Eurovision entries, ‘so we can slap him’.

The BBC is not the first to try to ask an anonymous bureaucrat to choose a song that is expected to be popular with the masses. This happened every year with Intervision, the Soviet equivalent of Eurovision, which ended in abysmal failure. The difference between the formats epitomised why the West won: ours was colourful, humorous, raucous, and even in the 1950s produced some of the most memorable popular tunes. While Soviet entrants were told to show ‘socialist dignity’, Eurovision was producing songs designed to be sung on the way back home from the pub (Exhibit A: ‘Volare’, Italy’s 1958 entry). Tito’s Yugoslavia banned radio stations from playing music that was ‘capitalist’ or ‘kitsch’.

The BBC evinces the same bureaucratic snobbery and lack of comprehension. When it did run a contest, the whole thing was a farce. But it need not be; there a thousand better ways to do it. As Katrina suggests, winning starts with the song rather than the singer — so the contest should begin with the writers. This happens in Sweden, which solicited 3,500 entries to find their winner this year. The aim is to write a song that works across 39 nations speaking 35 languages. It’s a fine art: if it wasn’t, the best songwriters would not be so rich.

While Terry Wogan resigned in protest at the block voting, he missed an important point: it’s true that the voting drips with politics, but the best Eurovision entries can game the system. The 1970 entry from Ireland was one by Dana, a Londonderry girl who sang about snowdrops and daffodils while her native Bogside was up in flames. The juxtaposition captured the imagination of a continent — as did her flight home. As she later put it,

‘This was the first time since the Troubles that a plane had flown from Dublin to British airspace in the North. It was a very important cross-border, cross-cultural event.’

If Eurovision was a night of inconsequential trash, then Iran would not have recalled its ambassador from Azerbaijan in protest at the tolerance the host Baku showed to gay fans. Vladimir Putin would not have hailed Dima Bilan’s win in 2008 as ‘a triumph for all of Russia’. And the Baku police would not have tracked down and questioned people who used their mobile phones to vote for Armenia, which is supposed to be Azerbaijan’s mortal enemy. Eurovision has become a place where hatchets are buried, or raspberries blown. The voting results are trawled over by academics. But no one can solve the mystery of Britain’s refusal to compete.

Britain does have talent — enough of it to win Eurovision every year if it chose. The contest may be derided by the BBC hierarchy, but is taken very seriously by the many countries who not so long ago had to vote in a Soviet system by switching the lights off and on in their houses and waiting for the authorities to judge an energy surge. They like and admire Britain, yet cannot work out why we don’t send our young talent to what has become the world’s most-watched non-sporting event. The answer is that it’s run by a bureaucracy as puzzled by popular culture as the old Intervision once was. Neither Sky not ITV suffer such problems. It is time for the BBC to let someone else find a song for Europe.

This is an updated version of a May 2013 article.

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Show comments
  • http://twitter.com/EdwardCunn Edward

    Everything that has been said is what fans have been saying for ages. The BBC are just utterly useless in picking a good song. They could have a selection process that sorts out the mess of their Q1 TV schedule it works for nearly all other countries.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ithinkiloveyou Dan Hall

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

      The last selection process sent Josh Dubovie, who’s had to change his name to move his career forward.

      • mawnck

        Josh was saddled with a horrible song (chosen by the BBC), an inept has-been producer (chosen by the BBC), an arrangement that was too high for him (from the BBC), lousy choreography and set design (from the BBC), and the world’s most off-key backing singers (from the BBC).

        And the BBC has been dragging his name through the dirt ever since, most recently a few nights ago on “How To Win Eurovision”, in which they entered him into a “Hall of Shame” alongside most of their other recent participants. Ho ho ho, look at us, all our entries are musical buffoons and Europe hates us.

        And they wonder why no one with any career prospects whatsoever wants to represent the UK, except oldies-circuit staples whose careers are now petrified and bulletproof? Headdesk headdesk headdesk ….

        The BBC is not the only problem. You also have to deal with the horrendous public attitude, as diligently fostered by the BBC for the last 30 years or so. Wogan may have been amusing, but he was the beginning of the end of your Eurovision chances.

        Nobody good will represent the UK, and the BBC wouldn’t have enough sense to choose them if they did. Best of luck.

        • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

          Well, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, but I do agree that the song selection process hasn’t been efficient for years.

          Do you think the UK should pull out, in that case?

          • mawnck

            Given that it still pulls huge ratings at a bargain price, I don’t see that happening. But nor do I see anything changing.

            I’m an American, and the source of my frustration is that we don’t get the ESC here, largely because of the UK’s crummy attitude. Most Americans that hear about it, do so from you. And they aren’t interested in your version of Eurovision. Show them the REAL Eurovision and they love it.

            So to answer your question, I think they should be KICKED out.

          • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

            “Your version”? That’s very amusing. As you can see from the various attitudes here on this page, there is no single UK attitude to Eurovision. And if you wish to view non-national coverage of the show, you can enjoy it at eurovision.tv.

            Or, if we’re going to generalise so much, then how about trying learning a new language. I’m making assumptions, just like you.

          • mawnck

            The attitude I speak of is officially sanctioned and reinforced by the network carrying the contest.

            I’m not just assuming about the vicious tweets being gleefully read by the BBC announcers during the broadcast. I’m not just assuming about the “How To Win Eurovision” program the other night. Did you watch it?

            Of course the attitude isn’t shared by everyone, but the comments on a (rare) pro-Eurovision article aren’t exactly a representative sampling.

          • George Galloway ESC Superstar

            An American lecturing and hectoring about a show in a faraway continent and KICKING (capitals, of course) entrants out of it. How typical, coming from the country that gave the world regime change.

          • cynic

            Well, that american seem to understand more about Eurovision than BBC and most britts do.

          • Dogsnob

            If only there were more regime change.

      • Andrew Stemp

        You say “the last selection process” but all we had to choose was the singer. The dire Pete Waterman song “That Sounds Good to Me” (which would be funny were it no so tragically ironic) was a foregone conclusion and, as you say, chosen by some numpty from the BBC.

        • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

          And that song WAS crap. That is not in dispute in the slightest, and poor Josh was treated abysmally in my opinion. The mistake made there was choosing Pete Waterman as a songwriter – when he was never a writer, he is a producer.

          The BBC song selection process is rubbish, absolutely. Except when they do well, like with Jade Ewen, of course. Won’t it be funny if Bonnie Tyler does well?

          • http://twitter.com/aestemp Andrew Stemp

            I can see it now if she does. Top 5 and the BBC will say they have been “vindicated” in their choice of song and artist. Top 15 and they’re “on the right track”, anything less than that will be “disappointing”. If UK comes in the bottom 5 or 6 then it will be “because the rest of Europe doesn’t have the same musical tastes as us” (despite the fact that the song was chosen for us so our musical tastes were not taken into account, and the rest of Europe buys more music originating in the UK than anywhere else on the planet). If we come last a huge joke will be made of it. Whatever happens, you can guarantee the BBC will report it in its usual partisan, biased and unbalanced way!

          • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

            I agree with that, absolutely. There’ll be a few questions asked in Ireland today…

  • http://twitter.com/TheRedBladder The Red Bladder

    Oh the problems just keep piling up don’t they? What with the EU and the economy all I needed was another major worry. Now I’ve got it in the form of who selects a song for some obscure competition that most people regard as a thing of absolutely no interest at all. Just to relieve the heavy burden that this enlightening piece has thrust upon my, already groaning, shoulders I shall have to seek solace in drink. Once again it’s the pub for me!

    • Fergus Pickering

      Good Heavens! I find myself agreeing with you. I must take my pills.

      • http://twitter.com/TheRedBladder The Red Bladder

        Since I see political stances as the ludicrous and hypocritical dreams of the deluded and comment accordingly most people do find themselves agreeing with me – on occasions! They then try to nail me down as right or left and I refuse to be a pair of gloves.

  • http://www.scandinista.com/ Scandinista

    They should just re-jig The Voice so the winner goes to Eurovision with a half-decent song not penned by dinosaurs.

    • http://twitter.com/tomdaylight tom w huxley

      It’s a song contest not a vocal contest. The song is the important part!

      • mawnck

        Well, name aside, it’s been more of a *presentation* contest ever since the Bucks Fizz skirt thing. The song is an important factor, but just one of several.

  • The Sage

    I think the BBC has enough perverts without inviting Jonathan King back. Is he still in prison or out on early release?

  • taytelbaum

    Non of the contestants really have any singing talent or dancing for that matter. But the theater is always good this big as Eurovision Song Contest. With an occasional real winner.

    • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

      Not one of the 39 countries sending acts has sent anyone with singing or dance talent? Right…

      • James

        I think the contestants bring their own security to the BBC dressing rooms.

    • CrimTV

      the majority do! You obviously never listen to the contestants!

      • James

        Gosh! I feel like smashing my television after listening to the most talentless musicians in Europe. I’m shocked you even think talent and Eurovision can be said in the same sentence.

        • mawnck

          Gee whiz, you’re cool.

          • James

            Really? I guess having superior tastes does make me kinda cool. Hell yeah.

          • mawnck

            You’re funny too.

          • James

            I can only find amusement in the thought that the Eurovision is a competition for music talents – surely nobody seriously thinks otherwise?

          • mawnck

            It’s a competition for who can create the most popular 3-minute live musical presentation. Some of the participants – both onstage and behind the scenes – are hugely talented. Others, not so much.

            Cool, funny, and serious. You should enter the contest.

          • James

            Perhaps the most popular 3-minute music presentation for Germans with too much ear wax, but not for lovers of music. I’d rather listen to my iPod and read about centipedes thanks very much. Furthermore, I’m not sure i’d want to damage my cool street credibility by entering the contest!

  • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

    I had great fun disagreeing with Fraser about this at the Swedish Embassy event. The reaction to the adverts during Channel 4’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony coverage shows us that Brits don’t really enjoy having breaks during big TV events. Another point is that while Melodifestivalen (also the selection process for the Eurovision entry) is the biggest show on Swedish TV, it hasn’t delivered winners “ever year”, and even recently produced a song that didn’t make it through the semi-final stage. It’s a great event, but to say that Swedes are watching it to ensure a decent Eurovision entry is wrong. (If you want to be bored by this even more, have a look at something I did after a number of gins: http://schlagerfiasko.se/eurovision-truth-part-1-is-melodifestivalen-successful-because-its-swedens-eurovision-selection-show/).

    Also, Svante Stockselius declared that Eurovision could happily wave goodbye to the UK in Eurovision without a second thought. In that case, he wouldn’t mind waving goodbye to the 9-10m UK viewers who watch the show every year.

    • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

      Oh, and my favourite bit was Svante telling us how he saved Sweden from dansband (like country music) hell. Yet Sweden’s last Eurovision winner before Loreen was, erm, a dansband song.

    • CrimTV

      so how would they afford Eurovision without the UK’s money?

      • http://twitter.com/misterjorgensen David Jørgensen

        Oh, quite easily. My argument is that the UK contributes a significant proportion of Eurovision’s ratings for the final. Svante saying that we wouldn’t be missed is very disappointing and rather out of touch.

    • cynic

      No, not every year.
      But the fails to qualify was before the last tweaks* to prefect it.
      Since it last was reformed in 2011 we had one really disappointing 14th place (still 5 spots better than UK did that year) and only two wins the other was two third placings.

      comparing to to UK results during the period:
      2011: 3 – 11
      2012: 1 – 25
      2013: 14 – 19
      2014: 3 – 17
      2015: 1 – 24

      * Changing the juries who hand out 50% of the vote in the Melodifestval Final from Swedish Music experts to international experts meant to be so similar to the actual Eurovision juries as possible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ithinkiloveyou Dan Hall

    An interesting article most of which I agree with. But there is an important distinction between those making the decisions and those forced to implement them. I have friends on the BBC’s Eurovision team and they really love the contest, not for an irritating arch irony, but for its vibrance and diversity. The BBC could do worse than letting those already in the mix have a bigger say.

  • Andrew Stemp

    An interesting article and, although it’s lacking in any real depth, I do agree that the BBC have recently shown complete ineptitude at choosing a song, not only in the last few years when the public has been given no choice, but also in prior years with the finalists we were given to choose from, most of which would not have made it onto the B side of a mediocre 80’s 7″ single. I therefore agree that that the task of finding a song should indeed be given to someone else. In a sense I have concluded it almost doesn’t matter who that is, on the basis that the only way is up. I have nothing against sending a seasoned artist like Bonnie Tyler to the show, but why send a ballad of such unmemorable mediocrity? I recently paid a visit to a local store near to where I live, and heard at least 3 songs in the 20 minutes I was there that would have made better entries than Believe In Me.
    We should either start to take this event seriously, or we should withdraw and let Azerbaijan, Russia, Norway and their ilk foot the bill. It’s not as if they cannot afford to do it. At the same time, the voting rules need to change. Why have semi finals to eliminate countries and then allow those countries to vote in the final? It makes no sense. If you are out of a competition, you are out. Cyprus will come back tomorrow night and vote for Greece, sure as night follows day. The fact that Cyprus was eliminated on Tuesday and the Greek song is a shambles will make no difference to that outcome.
    It became apparent that the BBC were not taking this event at all seriously some years ago, when they wheeled out people like Natalie Cassidy to comment on the songs in the Great British Song Contest/Song for Europe competition. Or the ubiquitous John Barrowman, who appears to understand only one genre of music himself and would desribe songs as being “Eurovisiony” or “Not Eurovisiony enough”, with scant regard to the fact that not every song which wins Eurovision is of the same type.
    Regarding the article, I have a comment about the suggestion that last year the Baku police “tracked down and questioned people who used their mobile phones to vote for Armenia”. This would have been quite some achievement, given that Armenia did not even participate in 2012, in protest that the show was being staged in Azerbaijan. Those police would certainly have had their work cut out. Either that or they would have all gone home early to make sure they got back in time to vote for Russia.

    • Fraser Nelson

      Lacking in real depth??? what a cheek…

      • Andrew Stemp

        well the fact that you clearly didn’t research as far back as even last year to see that Armenia didn’t participate hardly suggests you looked into this subject very deeply does it?

    • mawnck

      I haven’t heard it myself, but I’m told Bonnie Tyler’s own CD had a better Eurovision entry on it. Apparently the BBC chose “Believe in Me” because of its title. The idiocy of that strategy – and the focus of their agenda – should be evident to anyone.

      “Why have semi finals to eliminate countries and then allow those countries to vote in the final?”

      Ratings, my friend. Ratings. First and foremost, the contest is there to get viewers. And as the semifinal ratings make clear, most countries aren’t as interested if they can’t vote. That’s also one of the reasons there’s a big 5. (It’ll be a big 6 if Russia doesn’t qualify, assuming that ever happens. You watch.)

      Yes, Cyprus will vote for Greece. Why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you expect Cypriots to prefer Greek music? I certainly would.

      As for the Azerbaijan story, had YOU looked into the subject very deeply, you would know that it is accurate. The article doesn’t say it was last year. It happened in 2009. More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenia%E2%80%93Azerbaijan_relations_in_the_Eurovision_Song_Contest

      • Andrew Stemp

        Thank you for the clarification on the Baku police point, and apologies to Fraser. I admit I had assumed it was last year given it was held there in 2012. The fact it wasn’t makes it even more worrying that this went on. I take your point about ratings but I still don’t think it makes sense to allow those countries which have been eliminated to continue to decide who wins. And re the Greece/Cyprus point, both countries have entered a variety of styles of entry over the years, and yet both countries almost without exception have continually given each other maximum points. I simply cannot believe this is down to the song which is what this thing is supposed to be about (although I stopped believing some time ago that it was…); it’s just too much of a coincidence. I take some solace from the fact that I do think that, given a strong entry, any country can still win it. Any entry needs broad support to make it to the top of the voting, no country will ever get there based on the votes of their friends and neighbours alone. I sense you and I could discuss this for a long time 🙂

        • mawnck

          Regarding Cyprus and Greece … Regardless of musical styles, they are essentially the same musical market. It’s about as close to “voting for yourself” as you can get in the contest.

          And I apologize for my grumpiness this morning.

          • Andrew Stemp

            No worries. I think a lot of the UK votes which habitually go to Ireland come from Irish people living in the UK, and the fact that part of the island of Ireland is full of UK voters!! And to your point, similar markets and musical tastes.

        • Lee Fearn

          Armenia competed in 2009 with Jan Jan so I don’t understand how you can say that Armenia boycotted the 2009 contest.

    • Mary Ann

      How can you write an in depth article about the Eurovision song contest,

  • http://twitter.com/ianwalkeruk Ian Walker

    The obvious answer is that if you’re a British songwriter and you’ve written a top notch song, you’re not going to waste it on Eurovision.

    Personally, I love the contest, and I don’t really care where Britain comes. Besides, most serious analysis of the supposed voting bias shows that a lot of voting comes from immigrants, which is why the UK now votes heavily for Poland every year, we in turn get good marks from Spain, and why the bigger richer countries don’t have much chance of winning, because our peoples don’t emigrate to Europe (Brits go to Australia, Canada and the US, not Armenia and Estonia)

    • mawnck

      I assume the “bigger richer countries” with not much chance of winning would include Germany and Sweden … who won in 2010 and 2012 respectively. Denmark is the bookies’ frontrunner this year.

      2011 was won by Azerbaijan, not a country known for pumping out diaspora.

      Diaspora voting is an issue, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that it’s had any effect on the winners.

    • Andrew Stemp

      We in turn get goods marks from Spain? Since when? When did that happen? Statistically I understand they are one of the countries least likely to vote for the UK based on past voting patterns.

      • http://www.facebook.com/martinphillp Martin Phillp

        They also have a large British ex-pat community who are largely older and more likely to vote for Bonnie Tyler. Then again, that doesn’t explain why Engelbert didn’t get the points from Spain last year.

        • Mary Ann

          Perhaps because he was no good.

    • Mary Ann

      there are 2 million Britons living in Europe. You need a big private pension to go to Commonwealth countries, ’cause your State pension gets frozen.

  • James

    Even if Pink Floyd represented us in Eurovision we’d still lose. I’d be happy to ditch the competition from television because it is a waste of license fee that showcases the worst possible music human ears can handle.

    • mawnck

      I must’ve missed the year you sent Pink Floyd. Talk is cheap …..

      • James

        They didn’t qualify.

        • mawnck

          You’re big 5. They didn’t need to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/digitig Timothy George Rowe

    It’s a bit pointless suggesting that Sky could do it. As far as I can see, Sky are not a member of the EBU, so they’re not eligible. ITV could, though, through United Kingdom Independent Broadcasting.

    • Mary Ann

      Does the whole thing stop every 10 minutes to allow for the advertising breaks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1044346543 Simon John Othen

    love to read but you can bugger off i am not subscribing lol

    • Mary Ann

      This is a right wing rag, bit like the Torygraph, I’ve had my ten articles for this month, not going to pay for that either. Trouble is, the BBC have made their Have your say so much more difficult to use and the NS have stopped most of their’s as well. Oh well, I shall have to get a life instead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1044346543 Simon John Othen

    lol it says youve reached the limit of your free articles …not read one yet never been on this site before …BIGGG FAILLL !!!!

  • Name

    Why not send in Wynne Evans he is well known and has a catchy line in lyrics (if somewhat repetitive )

  • arnoldo87

    The selection process for UK entries has indeed been flawed in the last few years. Why, for instance, did we select middle aged/old performers for the last two contests when every other country selects dynamic young singers?

    Having said that, it is fairly obvious that this is a contest we will not win again in a hurry, even if we employed our huge wealth of songwriting talent. The “reciprocal voting” that occurs every year guarantees that the winner will nearly always emerge from the loose blocs that are evident:-

    The Balkans/Caucasus

    The old USSR

    Only Turkey AND Germany have broken this stranglehold since 1999, no doubt helped by their votes for each other.
    The real disappointment, however, is the immaturity shown by those who cast the votes. The songs do not generally reflect traditional music from the different countries – they are usually pretty much all Europop – so the voting must be based on regional bias.
    And, given their usual maturity, it is especially disappointing to see the Scandinavians behaving in this manner.

  • IKbaal

    I agree with the author. What a shame that Britian does not even make to top 10, being the largets country in EU? BBC bosses are loosers and can not even see the obvious. Sending senile singers like Bonnie Tylor means UK has lost even before starting. OPen up your eyes BBC. and why BBC should decide. It should be a panle of singers, entertainers and public etc who should choose the participant. Sticking to old outdated traditions is pullinng this country back. I despise BBC.

    • Mary Ann

      Britain is not the largest country in the EU either by size or population.

  • timothy evans

    Another reason to add to my list: WHY I LOATHE THE BBC more and more.

    • Mary Ann

      Unfortunately they have to pander to the majority otherwise people get upset, and it’s got to be better than adverts in the middle of some melodrama. Besides if the BBC goes commercial they will dumb it down even more.

  • serguei_p

    Yes, it would be a good idea to pick a better song next time (and for
    whoever is responsible to do their job better), but it still does not
    mean that we have to be serious about Eurovision and regard it in the
    same manner as people in other countries do.
    We don’t want the police
    to try to arrest people for “wrong voting” as they did in Azerbaijan or
    to regard winning in a pop-song competition as some kind of State
    The last thing we need is BBC trying to emulate, say, Russian Television in its attitude to this event.

  • D B

    I’m amazed that any intelligent person either watches this garbage or has any interest in it. I remember when The Spectator was a serious paper read by serious people.

    • Ben Gray

      Judge not lest ye be judged. There is so much enjoyment to be had following the Eurovision Song Contest building up every year, watching the other countries choose their songs (much better than the s**te on our own Saturday night schedules in January and February!) discussing with other fans around the continent, making new friends and learning about each other’s cultures. If you were to look a little deeper into the subject you might find its not nearly as ridiculous as it first seems.

  • Ben Gray

    A fantastic article and exactly the kind of press the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK needs. I might like to add that actually the BBC does not fund even close to the vast majority of the money towards the contest. Excluding expenses, our Eurovision entries cost a little over £300,000 a year. Compare that to the £500,000 the BBC spent just to hire will.i.am as a coach for two years, never mind the rest of the The Voice. For 7 hours of prime-time television (two semi-finals and a final) that attracts a peak audience of around 9 million Brits every year, the Eurovision Song Contest is an absolute steal for the BBC – some of, if not THE cheapest nights of TV all year. Smaller countries pay even less to enter. The only country footing the biggest share of the bill is the host. You can search for this information if you like, it came following a Freedom of Information Act request and was published in a paper after Engelbert Humperdinck’s result in 2012.
    Moving on, I’m not entirely sure the BBC need to have the rights to the Eurovision Song Contest taken away from them. There is tremendous unexploited potential for massive audience figures in a song selection format that already has worked for years and years in Sweden. The grand final of their Eurovision selection show, “Melodifestivalen,” is the biggest night of TV all year. Even more popular than the contest proper! The BBC would do very very well indeed for themselves if they put together a simple format calling upon some of the best song-writing talent Britain has to offer and having them work with an artist who is trying to break into the mainstream. Heck, why not even invite singers who write and produce their own material? We’ve no shortage of fantastic artists who may not be in the Top 40 but still enjoy great popularity on YouTube with expensive looking music videos.
    The BBC is perfectly capable of doing this if the demand is great enough, so we really do need more articles like this. It’s fantastic to know that some talks were held at the Swedish embassy in London and I would love to know more about how those went, and if it could lead to an online campaign for the public to get involved in. I’d be all over that!!
    I don’t really want it to go to ITV or any other commercial broadcaster, because they won’t give those kinds of ratings up, and who’s to say they won’t make the same kind of half-handed effort that most people in this country believe the Eurovision Song Contest deserves? If they mess it up, they won’t be accountable to the British public. We don’t need another TV channel, we just need a bit of imagination. The British people are clearly interested in Eurovision despite everything that is said, so why the BBC can’t be bothered to let people who care lead the charge is beyond me.


      What an amazing comment – two years on and nothing has changed.
      Vote for Change.

      • The Masked Marvel

        He seems to think it’s all about what’s best for the BBC. That’s how BBC management see it as well.

      • Chris Bolton

        I’d love to vote for change, but how? How this is still accepted is beyond me. These people are representing us to the world and this is just shameful. I’m embarrassed that we don’t care and Europe knows it.

  • global city

    I think you are wrong on this one Fraser. I love all of those elaments that make the show so cheesy, and the BBC commentators make light of. To take the contest seriously would be to concede to our ‘Europeanness’.

    Eurovision is like those horror movies that are so bad they are good. Tightening up on it would just make it a bad show!

    • Mary Ann

      I like being European.


    I’d LOVE to write a song to represent ANY country at Eurovision. It’s a great opportunity for songwriters to tap into 90 million viewers. I have wanted the BBC to have a proper songwriting contest for years, allowing amateur and professional songwriters the opportunity to represent the UK. Even if the contest is just online or an obscure radion station, it doesn’t matter, the BBC will be fulfilling its obligation to provide VFM and music and opportunity etc.
    I have been trying to get info from the BBC for years about the song selection process but never get anything useful back. I am starting to think it’s a total conspiracy. If anyone does know or could help me get a song seen by the Beeb, tweet me @galvinsongs

  • AntonyShepherd

    The BBC are being very clever here, and quite clearly playing the “My Lovely Horse” strategy. Covering Eurovision brings in lots of viewers so is worth it.
    Staging Eurovision, however, would be a massive expense and a major waste of licence fee payers money, so cleverly the BBC send up some complete no-hoper every year in the clear and certain knowledge that they’ll lose, and so the BBC and the licence payers won’t have to foot the bill for staging the show next year.

  • Mary Ann

    I wish we could be protected from Eurovision, nothing but war films or the usual rubbish on the other channels.

  • Maureen Fisher

    As the writer points out, we remain the most successful country in the world at producing pop songs and artists so the reason we bomb every year must indeed be the stranglehold of the BBC. The fact that Sweden’s winner and most other artists sing in English is evidence that their songs are pitched at the English speaking market.

  • mikewaller

    How far my county has fallen! the Editor of the Spectator throwing a wobbly over Britain’s inability to win Eurovision. It would be nice to think it was just that the foreign kids at the kindergarten were giving him a hard time. Sadly, I am more inclined to believe that each time he gives the Beeb a kicking, his off-shore, news-suppressing, bosses add £1000 to his annual bonus. Of course, it might just be professional jealousy given that the monthly news-stand cost of the Spectator significantly exceeds that of the BBC, a world renowned organisation that delivers a full range of services to all and sundry provided they pay its minuscule license fee.

  • 3x4_34

    “Graham Norton and Paddy O’Connell are great presenters.”
    My opinion is that Norton was a childish disaster as a presenter and it seems I am not alone with this opinion. He should be forced to listen to himself for the next 48 hours.

  • HaHaMrWilson

    The answer is simple: We just stop being a major contributor to the event and maybe the whole charade will slip away.
    Alternatively, maybe enter as separate countries, so that England (naturally) will receive the nil points, while Scotland and Wales become the major beneficiaries, like the old balkan states voting for each other.

  • Reginald_Molehusband

    Who gives a **** about this **** anyway? Fraser, get a life.

    • Hamburger

      There is nothing more important than the inconsequential.

  • Landphil

    Last time I watched it in 1974 some Swedish group won – whatever happened to them?

  • S&A

    ‘The corporation is useless at entertainment, he said, and no longer has anyone in its hierarchy who understands it’.

    True, and the rot goes beyond Eurovision. Comedy, drama, the works.

    The Beeb has given us ‘Bonekickers’, ‘Outcasts’, ‘The Hour’ and ‘Hunted’. It has also decided that Jeremy Hardy and Andy Parsons are the height of comedic genius.

  • Jeremy Fletcher

    You’re missing the point. Britain’s traditional – and correct – role is to smile indulgently on this annual festival of kitsch and gently extract the nitrogen-rich fluids as Johnny Foreigner plays us some of his boom-bang-a-bang Europop. Actually wanting to win Eurovision would be deeply uncool.

  • MC73

    No one in their right mind gives a shit about Eurovision. We can enter pub acts for all I care.

  • WTF

    The art of winning by a bunch of wannabee pop star losers across the European Union and beyond is something we’d be better off out of. The ONLY non Brit artists that have appeared (and won) on the Eurovision song contest as well as being world wide success’s were ABBA and even their first song Waterloo was a ratherl lame Euro style number. That said, it got them on the first rung to success with a string of far better commercial hits that followed plus a stage show and a film musical.

    Can anyone remember many other European singers, artists or groups of note making it elsewhere as I cant and perhaps the only performers I can remember at the Eurovision contest were a pair of Non European Russian Lesbian singers ‘grinding’ suggestively at each other to some inane song.

    Who cares who wins, as the real winners are those that sell records that people will buy and listen too not the contrived pap that takes 4 hours or more on the BBC !

  • TheCitizenAct

    I posted a perfectly legitimate response on same-sex marriage across 5 different MSM sites, including the Telegraph and the Guardian, and in every instance my post was either deleted or my account banned.

    It tell us how much tolerance the MSM has towards diverging viewpoints on this ‘morality.’ If you want to read the post, you can read it in full here: http://thecitizenact.tumblr.com/post/119867791752/another-post-which-is-too-controversial-for-the

    Do tell, what about it is so controversial?

  • paulthorgan

    Top Gear is a British success story. And yet its famous frontman was treated with derision by the Notting Hill intelligentsia that run the BBC. The BBC could not even provide the programme with a competent producer.

    The BBC are not actually interested in demonstrating that some people are more talented than others as this conforms with the socialist mindset that all must win prizes.

    The BBC does not promote excellence so it is not surprising that its Eurovision entries are mediocre.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    The problem is, in other smaller euro countries, especially Eastern Europe, it’s seen as a chance for their artists to get seen and potentially make it to the big time. There is no stigma attached to performing in Eurovision for them. It’s like a continental X factor for them.

    In the UK we view it as where music acts go do die, which means it’ll attract only music which deserves to die.

    I also don’t think the semis are helping us, because may people watch the semis and make up their minds before the final. The UK which has a automatic place in the final misses out on the momentum that the semis can provide.

  • Martin McEvoy

    Sorry, but this article is spectacularly silly. No-one has won this show more than the Irish, they know it back to front – yet haven’t won or come close since 1996, coming last twice and failing to even make the final this year. No Brit has won since K&tW in 1997, despite britain having more top 3 finishes than anyone in the history of the show.

    But prior to that seminal year, GB & Ireland took up 9 of the 14 available winners and runners up sport

    The Dutch and Franch last won in the ’70s for goodness sake!

    What could POSSIBLY have happened since 1996,1997 to challenge that Anglo dominance?

    “Buzz….national phone voting??!!”

    Teddy bear to the gentlemen on the right in the banana costume.

    Since 1998, and the high point, prior to Austria of Peak Kitsche, SEVEN scandinavians songs have won. Five former Russian vassals (not including their sister state Serbia). – 12 out of 17 between them. In the same period, 3 scandinavians have also been runners up, and EIGHT former russian states. 11 out of 17.

    You wanna blame the BBC for ethnic diaspora nationalism, go right ahead….

    Of course, perversely had the Scots gained indy, a British isles bloc might even have emerged…

  • jatrius

    It’s become a beauty contest for nations’ foreign policy. Dump it and reinstitute Jeux Sans Frontieres. Same banality but at least an equal dog’s chance of winning.

  • Andy OCallaghan

    The BBC’s contempt for Eurovision is entirely appropriate. The contest is a farce – an outdated festival of mediocrity that has nothing to do with celebrating European music, culture or fashion. The woeful songs, the Las-Vegas-via-Poundshop kitsch, the childish political chicanery; it’s a crappy TV gala and it should have died out in the 70s. There’s quite literally nothing good about it and the idea that we should take it “seriously” is demented.

  • http://www.mixcloud.com/DJDavidBourne/ David Bourne

    Get Simon Cowell on the case..

  • ArchiePonsonby

    I think that you REALLY mean: “Britain needs to be saved from Eurovision AND the BBC”!