Hello Dear Readers!
Officially, Eurovision kicks off at the end of March when all the competing countries have to turn in their official entries (and all related media). But, National Finals season, the period where each competing country selects its entry, has begun! Typically, Albania kicks things off with Festivali i Këngës, held annually around Christmas Day. However, a growing number of countries have decided on an artist, a song, or both earlier and earlier. As of January 1, 2016, eight countries (Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, and Russia) have selected an artist and one (Albania) has an artist and song selected. Germany had an artist selected, but, due to his controversial history, decided to go in another direction. A new artist has yet to be selected.
Yes! You read that correctly, Bosnia & Herzegovina is finally returning to the Contest after a three year absence! And it’s not alone. Bulgaria, Croatia, and Ukraine are returning to the Contest! Bulgaria and Croatia each last competed in 2013, and Ukraine last competed in 2014. Sadly, Turkey is not making a return after early rumors that it would. And, due to financial restraints, Portugal is once again withdrawing from the ESC.
Unsurprisingly, Australia was invited to return as a regular contender. Though, since they are no longer a guest, the country will have to compete in the semi-finals and hope to qualify for the Grand Final. I predict that there will be another song from Down Under on Saturday night.
Equally as unsurprising, SVT, this year’s host broadcaster, has announced that there will be two hosts this year, the popular Petra Mede (who hosted the ESC solo in 2013) as well as last year’s winning performer Måns Zelmerlöw (who has several hosting gigs under his belt, including Melodifestivalen). The Green Room host (if there is to be one) has yet to be announced.
Those are the biggest news stories thus far for ESC2016, but as the National Finals begin in earnest, more news will surely break! Stay tuned for my post about my hopes and expectations for Stockholm from a fan standpoint as well as from that of an attendee.
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Let’s see, it’s December 2nd, we’re six days past the deadline for countries to declare their participation in ESC 2011 (in which Italy declared its return and France has yet to issue an official statement either way) and about a week away from the EBU meeting set to determine the fates of Lichtenstein broadcaster 1FLTV and Qatar broadcaster Qatar Radio (as well as Kazakhstan’s Kazakhstan 1 and Kosovo’s RTK-1, both have expressed at least moderate interest in participation in the ESC), and a couple of weeks ahead of the Reference Group meeting that decides the Big 4(5) and whether Hungary’s DunaTV can compete for the country. We only have five artists decided (The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, and Bosnia & Herzegovina) and no songs selected, yet this is already shaping out to be a historic Contest.
For starters, Mr. Svante Stockselius, the heralded head of Eurovision who is stepping down from his position, is going out with a bang. After making it one of his administration’s top priorities, he finally got Italy to quit pouting on the sidelines and rejoin the fun that is Eurovision (expect an entry regarding Stockselius’ legacy in the coming weeks). Italy is back, but is hemming and hawing about whether they want to become automatic qualifiers. Given their history, they probably feel as if they don’t need to pay the extra dues, but in not doing so, they deny another country the chance at victory. The Reference Group will be meeting in mid-December to discuss this issue. And while we’re talking about the big money countries, why has there not been any official word from France? They had a top ten placing in 2009 and got 12th in Oslo – why would they not participate?!
Also returning for certain in 2011, Austria – who have so often whined about the voting at the Contest – is returning. They left the Contest, again, after a dismal showing in 2007. But before I launch into a rant about Austria…
Hungary, a much belied but passionate country, nonetheless, is trying its darnedest to return after an absence last year. The former ESC broadcaster in Magyar, MTV, no longer has the budget to participate or even broadcast the Contest (hence Hungary’s withdrawal in 2010) and private broadcaster Duna TV took over the role of ESC provider in the Central European country. Now, Duna TV is trying to get approval from the Reference Group (the very same one that is weighing Italy’s level of participation).
Also awaiting the approval of ruling bodies, Lichtenstein and Qatar. Lichtenstein should easily be in as long as they can pay their dues. Qatar presents an interesting conundrum for the EBU. I am sure they would love to expand their market in the the Middle East, especially with a country that’s willing to play nice with Israel. The issue is: the bounds of the European Broadcasting Area is 30ºN and 40ºE, which come together somewhere in Saudi Arabia, to the north of and to the west of Qatar…i.e., Qatar is outside of the EBA. Now, I know what you’re thinking, if there’s money to be had – then it won’t matter. BUT the EBU have used these boundaries to deny Kazakhstan’s K-1 entry. The official website and OikoTimes have both said that Qatar magically fits within the EBA, but have simply said that because the southern boundary of the EBA is 30ºN runs through several countries in Northern Africa and Saudi Arabia, and Qatar is north of the southern boundaries of these countries, it is within the EBA. Confused? So am I! Regardless of how this works out, I would be happy with the decision. If they deny entry to Qatar Radio, then they will be sticking to their rules and regulations. If they allow Qatar in (and, thus, they will have to let in K-1, too) then I would welcome the addition of a fixture country from the Middle East into the Contest. Both Lichtenstein and Qatar have pending ESC debuts on the line and eagerly await the EBU’s decisions.
By Christmas, we should know just how historic the Contest in 2011 will be!