Friday, May 11, 2007

Showbusiness Ethnopolitics: Eurovision Voting Redux

From Riga on the Baltic to Piran on the Adriatic,* there's one thing the ten qualifiers from last night's Eurovision Song Contest semi-final have in common: Belarus, Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Georgia, Latvia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Moldova can all be found to the eastern side of them. At least in the non-qualifying Dutch camp, there are hints of a feeling that the current structure of the contest is over-representing central/south-east European countries and new entrants from the former Soviet Union.

Booing from the arena audience as the final qualifier was announced hasn't helped matters, although the word on the Helsinki street is that the reaction had less to do with an east-west axis, more to do with the Eurovision press and fan corps having massively taken to Andorra's skate-pop boy band Anonymous during rehearsal week.

Complaints of political/neighbourly voting aren't quite the root of the problem: the ex-socialist and eastern-Mediterranean participant countries tend to be smaller, often recently fragmented, and (decisively) more committed to a high-priority eye-catching presentation. For the moment, at least, ethno-pop and folk-dance choreography (culminating this year in a Georgian sword dance) come across as more original than drag acts and tired soul music, although that might not be the case after several more years of the Eurovision Banging Drums And Shouting 'Hey' While Wearing Leather/Fur/Chain Mail Contest. Moreover, take a large multi-national state with a common music market, split it into six or more nation-states with a shared musical past, and any entry which resonates with the populations' musical tastes ends up six times more profitable on the scoreboard than it might have been.

Tempers may be assuaged by 2009, when the Eurovision Broadcasting Union plans to hold two semi-finals to replace the current system that relegates most finalists and all non-qualifiers into next year's semi-final. In the meantime, it would ease political strains a little if some of the four annual qualifiers - France, Germany, Spain and the UK (the four biggest financial contributors to Eurovision) - could contrive to place in the top ten and free up an extra finalist's position or two.

* Poland didn't make it, and Italy have stayed away from Eurovision since 1997, hence the mangled quotation...

UPDATE:: More from the Helsinki street (with bonus commentary from the Icelandic representative).

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At 7:40 am, May 12, 2007, Blogger czechOUT said...

I was in a huge crowd of people chanting for Andorra in the arena come the opening of the last envelope. The booing was certainly due to their not qualifying than the over-representation of Eastern Europe.

Anyway, the eastern Europeans take the contest far more seriously!


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