I’m writing this piece perched on a table in the Rock Lounge of the Saku Suurhalle … you remember that – it was the venue for 2002 … and yes, they had Contests back then.
My own country, the United Kingdom of Stuff, used to have a national final. Many years ago, it was a proper show on a Friday night with juries and everything! Nowadays, we’re limited to a reveal on Radio 2 (and 1 – despite the fact that Greg James did a hatchet job on the entire thing – well done there). I sat at home and sighed when details of the UK song leaked thanks to Czech Radio. I didn’t even bother to tune into the Radio 2 reveal once I had the news confirmed. I literally turned off the BBC Sounds app the second Ken said the song title.
It shouldn’t have to be this way every Goddamn year. It doesn’t have to be this hard to justify the inane questions that get asked time and time again (and I’m not repeating them for the millionth time).
Once Wogan left both the contest and this mortal coil, I naively thought that the BBC – who, quite rightly come in for some stick – would make more of an effort. Actually, no, that’s not the right phrase. That’s the lazy phrasing so-called fans come out with when they think they know everything there is to know about how broadcasting works and the world of Eurovision. They insist their disappointment is down to a broadcaster not “trying” and denigrate the songwriters who choose to write a song – not to mention the skill involved (even if we don’t hear or see it) and the fact they bother to write the songs in the first place.
Must try harder
A more appropriate attitude for fans to take would be “create and work with a legacy”. All broadcasters have one.
I’m writing this a snowy, cold Saku Suurhalle, where the funnily named ERR have decided to accredit me and some chums to write about their national final. The press room is cosy, shall we say, with about 20-30 people – a mix of local and fan media – crammed in cheek-by-jowl as the artistes sing in the massive hall next door. No sooner do they finish rehearsing than they’re shepherded in to do interviews and face the same questions most of the time. The acts stay polite because they know this is how it is supposed to be.
The Head of Press at ERR hovers (also being polite) and asks if everyone has had enough time with the artists, all the time ensuring we, as accredited press (and yes I include myself in that because that’s what it says on my badge and that’s all that matters) output words that are fair and balanced.
If a broadcaster with limited resources like ERR can welcome both traditional and fan media with the same embrace, why on earth can’t the BBC?
We know the answer to that … because BBC innit.
That may sound flippant, but it goes back to the legacy they created. Over the years, the BBC has been less than forthcoming to anyone other than the ‘proper‘ media types who trot out 250 words on a Saturday night in May. This attitude backfires every.single.year. They perpetuate the myth, consciously or otherwise, that the BBC is in no way responsible for any failure at the Contest. They’ll find a way to shift the blame onto a war or Brexit or political voting. Wogan was right. They all hate us.
Estonia hasn’t won since 2001. Their sole victory to date. They’ve had highs (and spectacular lows), but crucially they have a pool of songwriters that keep writing and singers that keep coming back for more.
What does the BBC have? A desperate need to hang onto past glories in a modern contest that has moved on. A talent base that doesn’t actually care and see Eurovision as a bit of fun. Songwriters are, I’m told, writing to a brief to be safe rather than good.
Estonian viewers get twelve different songs broadcast on live prime time TV from a sold-out 5,000 seat arena. In the UK, we put up with another ham-fisted misreading of the Contest.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Bush House sounds like an asylum.