I’m a massive consumer of global television thanks to streaming platforms, Stan and Netflix. Some of my favourites include Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The 100, Mindhunter, Downton Abbey, Jane The Virgin, The Office (USA), Community, and Parks and Rec, just to name a few.
As I’ve grown up, sitting down and actually watching television has become less and less common for me. You’ll only find me in front of the TV if there’s an NBA or NBL game or if Google Box or Survivor happen to be on.
However, there is one very special annual occasion that will always have me hooked to the TV for a solid few days….
Eurovision Week has been held in May annually since 1956. It is, in my opinion, up there with any special occasions like Christmas, Easter, New Year’s and my birthday. My whole family looks forward to the nights we spend watching Eurovision, the days avoiding spoilers due to timezones, and the weeks after of rewatching all our favourites and guilty pleasures. According to my dad, my parents started watching it in 1995, and my family have followed it ever since.
The Eurovision Song Contest was introduced by the European Broadcasting Union in the mid 1950’s as a way for a war-torn Europe to come together in the aftermath of war. In the first “Eurovision Grand Prix” held in 1956, only 7 countries performed: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland. Since this humble beginning, Eurovision has grown majorly.
As of 2019, 50 countries are eligible to perform in the song contest. This number is not limited to just European countries, making the competition global. Western Asian countries Israel, Cyprus and Armenia have been annual contestants since 1973, 1981 and 2006 respectively. Morocco also competed in 1980. The transcontinental countries of Turkey, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan also all annually compete.
One of the most surprising and recent inductees to the Eurovision Song Contest was Australia in 2015.
Eurovision’s Australian Success
Eurovision has been shown by the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in Australia since 1986, by broadcasting the BBC’s coverage which was accompanied by Terry Wogan’s ironic commentary (Highfield, Harrington and Bruns, 2013). Wogan retired in 2009 and since then, SBS have sent their own commentators to create their own broadcast of the show.
“Ironic engagement with Eurovision forms an important, if not as central, part of the commentary for SBS’s broadcasts – not just on air but also among the audience sharing their Eurovision-related thoughts on Twitter”.Highfield, Harrington and Bruns – TWITTER AS A TECHNOLOGY FOR AUDIENCING AND FANDOM (2013)
In the Week 2 BCM111 lecture, we were asked to think about what we think is the reason for the global success (or failure) of our chosen topic. I believe that Eurovision’s cult following and success in Australia can be put down to the comedic approach of SBS’s commentary, as well as the social media commentary of those watching at home.
Whilst European viewers may view the competition with a more serious, competitive eye, Australian’s love the “kitsch spectacle” of the show and many watch with a “detached, ironic posture” (Skey, Kyriakidou, McCurdy, Uldam, 2016). This is highlighted through the #SBSEurovision hashtag used across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Here’s a collection of some of the tweets from this year’s Eurovision:
Further Global Influence
Eurovision has inspired people around the world to establish their own adaptions of the contest. The Caribbean Song Contest began in 1984 and the Asia Song Festival first aired in 2004. The Eurovision Asia Song Contest is set to be held on the Gold Coast later this year and will be produced by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and SBS. There has been some controversy around the contest however, as it was originally meant to occur in 2017.
Eurovision wouldn’t be Eurovision without its slight undertones of European politics. You can count on the juries of Greece and Cyprus to give each other 12 points, Germany to receive very little votes (except in the case of Lena and ‘Satellite‘ in 2010), and for Russia and Israel to receive some boos from the crowd.
Voting patterns between countries have been studied and proven by researchers such as Marta Blangiardo and Gianluca Baio in ‘Evidence of bias in the Eurovision song contest: modelling the votes using Bayesian hierarchical models’.
Political protests are usually stopped by Eurovision officials prior to Eurovision week, however the use of live television broadcasts can impact on this control. This year, Eurovision was hosted by Israel in Tel Aviv. During the counting of votes, the cameras panned to the Icelandic group, Hatari, who were waving Palestinian flags that read “Free Palestine”.
Thanks to the concept of global media and television, Eurovision is a way for countries around the world to come together through their love of music, good and bad, outrageous staging, stunts and costumes and a little friendly competition. I’m already counting down the days until next year!
For those of you who are new to Eurovision, here is a playlist of some of my favourites, and favourites to laugh at. Check out the Eurovision Youtube channel for some great content too. If you’re a fellow Eurovision fan, tweet me some of your favourite Eurovision moments!!
TWITTER AS A TECHNOLOGY FOR AUDIENCING AND FANDOM by Tim Highfield , Stephen Harrington & Axel Bruns (2013). Accessed online: https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1611887/mod_resource/content/1/Eurovision%20and%20Twitter.pdf
Staging and Engaging With Media Events: A Study of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest by Michael Skey, Maria Kyriakidou, Patrick McCurdy, Julie Uldam (2016). Accessed online: https://web-a-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=d20d9f59-9d38-45cd-b2a9-5296ee480d37%40sdc-v-sessmgr02