So do you want some thoughts about the whole BBC News “ranking” thing from someone sensible? – Of course you do – that’s why Lisa-Jayne Lewis write this for your perusal!
Well that article a few days ago caused Eurovision Twitter to explode a little bit didn’t it, with the folks at BBC news putting out what might be the worst ball-drop of an article ever? For those of you thinking it’s not a big deal, let me explain to you why it is and why the excuses simply don’t cut the mustard.
Firstly, the BBC is the host broadcaster for this year’s contest, jointly with UA:PBC of course, but essentially it’s on our turf and the BBC are the broadcaster whose name is splashed all over the bright yellow hearted branding (I’ve already had feelings about it not being co-branded, but I’ve got over that one now). So for a host broadcaster to publish an article on their website which hugely disrespects some of the artists who are just a few weeks away from, quite frankly, the performances of their lives, is simply NOT ok. It just isn’t.
Yes, I know the nitty-gritty, BBC News are not the same as BBC Entertainment etc and probably those who upload these ‘features’ to the website are yet another team altogether, but they are all the BBC and there is no getting away from that. It is a reasonable assumption that someone without the knowledge of how the BBC works could and would assume that the host broadcasters already has favourites and that there could be cause from concern about the impartiality of the show.
As the stage and infrastructure is being constructed at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool by one BBC department, another BBC department is metaphorically setting it on ‘fuego’ on the internet. Any host broadcaster has to be impartial, squeaky-clean, level playing field there cannot be any other way. The last thing a delegation wants to think is that the host broadcaster has determined and published whether they will qualify and/or where they’ll finish on the night.
It’s simply not acceptable to leave yourself open to what could potentially be skirting round the edges of legalities by having a “journalist” (I use the term very loosely) publish his opinions in an article that is endorsed by the hose broadcaster. Let me tell you, if someone complains after the show that the BBC had already determined that they wouldn’t qualify and posted it online 6 weeks previously, and decided to seek legal recompense for, what they determined, to be partiality and bias then it would be my (and your) licence fee that would be paying for the BBC lawyers in that case and I’m not ok with that. For the record, I am more than ok with the BBC using my licence fee to pay for Eurovision and many other fine programmes that it produces every year. I’m not ok with them using my hard-earned cash to fight a fire of their own making. Is this probable? No, but is it possible? Yes and that’s why they should have pulled this piece the minute everyone started pointing out to them what was wrong.
More about that. Eurovision Twitter, which is a seedy little corner of the internet and one that I have to brace myself before entering, went a bit nuts with hundreds of replies to the tweet, put out by the BBC (again implying their endorsement and approval of the article). The vast majority of these were pointing out much of what I’m saying in this article, but it boiled down to ‘not cool, bruh’. Yet hours after receiving reasonable replies the article was not only still on the website, but still a pushed feature making sure it got the widest coverage it could. Is there anyone working on the BBC web content, that might have had an inkling that this might not be a great idea? Seemingly not. Even after quite a large number of people pointed it out to them.
Those of us who write or comment online must be aware of who might read or hear what we say. For quite a number of us who’ve been hanging around this contest since Queen Victoria was on the throne we’ve seen the effects that bad press, trolling and online hate can have on artists. At a time when, I think it’s not a secret, there is a desire from the EBU to separate the artists, who are all working their butts off to bring us their A game, from the vitriol that can be spewed on social media and the countless ill-informed YouTube reaction videos (caveat: they are not all ill-informed) it’s really not helpful when the bloody host broadcaster joins the baying mob, in fact it’s downright wrong. We know that artists have seen this article, Slovenia’s Joker Out tweeted “Thanks hosts! Can’t wait to meet you too…”
Let’s consider what the BBC has achieved in the space of a year. Firstly selecting a proper gem of a man, and top level performer in Sam Ryder, then letting him be freer than I think we’ve seen any other UK artist in many, many years. Finishing 2nd, agreeing to host, changing the tide of apathy and disdain toward Eurovision in the UK media, creating positive stories, partnering with Liverpool City who have taken to this hosting lark like ducks to water, reigniting the spark, getting people interested. OGAE UK have seen unprecedented numbers joining the official fan club. Honestly, I never thought I would live to see such times, but here we are. For the first time in ages I am doing interviews on TV and radio which don’t involve conversations about Brexit or political voting, there is a notable shift in the way the contest it being covered and the British public are, for the most part, more engaged than many of us have seen in decades. Again, publishing this piece that is so out of step with the way that Eurovision has been positioned by the national and local media that it looks out of step with reality and, well frankly, a bit old.
You only have to read the first few lines to know where this is going, it’s like something the BBC might have put out 3 years ago (when they weren’t the host broadcaster, so didn’t have to think about the wider implications of what was being shared on their website). They are ainly made up nonsense. The writer begins by saying “As always, the quality’s about as consistent as a vat of jelly” which is made as a statement and to say that is unacceptable to begin with, it is not for the host broadcaster to talk about quality, especially when that is the BBC who let’s face it, haven’t exactly been the best judges of quality in the past. He goes on to say “there are some gems amongst the inevitable onslaught of power ballads.” Now do forgive me, but I’m not entirely sure there is an “onslaught of power ballads”, in fact I think it’s fair to say that the class of 2023 have delivered one of the most musically diverse contests that we’ve had for a while. So three short paragraphs in and the host broadcaster is making wild statements based on stereotypes and tropes that aren’t actually correct.
Mark Savage, who is credited as being a BBC Music Correspondent, does go on to concede that “…the beauty of Eurovision. Everyone gets a say, and my opinion is no more important than anyone else’s.” The trouble is, Mr Savage, when your opinion is published on the website of the host broadcaster, it unwittingly does become more important that others and that is a big problem. Now I’m not saying that Mark is not entitle to his opinion on any or all of the songs, of course he is, we all are, and were he to have published them independently, perhaps making his own TikTok or YouTube reaction videos on his own channel, then there is no problem, but as the BBC, nope, no good.
And another thing… (sorry if this feels a bit ranty, actually, no I’m not!) Yes there is an argument that says this was put out by a rogue BBC correspondent, it’s not actually the BBC Eurovision team who wrote it, I’ve hopefully addressed why that argument is as valid as flat-earth theory, but that article has been shared and publicised by members of the BBC Eurovision team. Now I don’t mean Rylan (at time of writing, he’s stuck in a broken down car somewhere in Essex) or Scott (He’s on holiday with his family in Dubai, very posh!) and Graham Norton hasn’t tweeted anything since October (we all know why) but others for instance, who present the Official BBC’s Eurovisioncast have, and that adds another layer of problematic interactions that ought not to arise. We all know how twitter works, if you share something it is seen as endorsement and it also drags BBC Eurovision into it, so you can no longer claim it was done ‘by them, over there, nought to do with us guv’.
Yes I know it was supposed to be a bit of fun, I know Mark Savage didn’t mean anything by it, I know it was there to drive up hits to the BBC website (though Lord knows why, it’s not like they need the hits to up their numbers for an accreditation to the press centre). But it’s categorically NOT fun for a host broadcaster to disrespect artists, appear to determine the outcomes before the arena construction is anywhere near finished and to make wild claims about artists (and a show) that they clearly know very little about.
It is simply not cool to throw your colleagues under the bus, which is exactly what one BBC department has done to another. It’s also very not cool, that no one more senior has any common sense to a) pull it, b) apologise for it, c) at least remove it as a feature article and d) stop actual BBC Eurovision people from sharing it.
Do better BBC, we know you can.