Reports of the death of Eurovision are greatly exageraged

What went wrong at Eurovision 2024?

Evening – or morning, or afternoon – make a day of it I say. So how are we all?

For some of you the answer will be “Fine, nothing to worry about” – for others the answer is “ZOMG THE CONTEST IS ON FIRE” and – for the sensible among you (a majority of you reading this I hope) – a little from column A and a little from Column B.

Echo chamber

Eurovision social media is an echo chamber, feeding whatever narrative those young (or indeed, old) enough with time on their hands want us to believe. Their curated opinion on a range of subjects as diverse as “Boycott all the things” to “You’re a Zionist for watching“. And let’s not forget: “Martin Osterdahl really is the spawn of Satan” and “Justice for Joost“. Seems like the good burghers of the internet are eating up whatever they’re fed. So let Mr Phil guide you through these piles of shite.

No, you are not a Zionist if you watched the contest. You’re what we call a ‘fan’ of the contest. You can love the thing you love AND think things about what various state (and non-state) actors are doing – usually to each other. The two are not mutually exclusive, despite what Eurovision scholars and cerebral thinkers on X would have you believe. Did you enjoy it? – Great, Crack on!

Eurovision viewing figures 2023Boycott all the things – Well that didn’t quite work out as expected or planned either.  Semi Final one viewing share in 11 comparable markets were three percentage points up – I know, I did the research – and we’ll be publishing our regular run-down of viewing figures very soon. Suffice it to say semifinal two saw similar viewing trends. When it came to the final, France, Spain, UK and Italy all had their highest shares of the TV audience in (non-hosting) years. It seems that real people don’t care what Twitter/X thinks.

Going Dutch

That feeds into this next bit. Justice for Joost.  OK – let’s take a step back away from this one as well here and frame it like this: If someone you didn’t know came into your workplace and, after a confrontation, acted aggressively enough towards a co-worker (male or female) that your co-worker felt the need to report it to the police, you’d expect the accused to be frog-marched off the premises. They’d likely have their security badge and access to free tea and coffee suspended and be told not to stay home until any investigation concludes – be that one carried out by HR or the police. Or both.

ANP

And yet, when this happened in the good old ‘United by Music’ world of Eurovision, many people felt excluding the ‘accused person’ was a touch on the heavy-handed side of things. That it was OK, because … Eurovision, innit.

No, No it’s not ok. The EBU had a duty of care to the employee to not only believe them, but to investigate fully.

All this nonsense spouted by Avrotros and Cornald Mass (who is a rent-a-gob at the best of times, when it comes to Eurovision) about proposed solutions was never going to fly. A participant behaved in a threatening way to a member of staff. End of story. There wasn’t time to do anything but apply a ‘zero tolerance’ policy. The investigations may well reveal nothing untoward happened. They may find an offence committed under Swedish law. If the latter happens, Twitch Forks would be waved and complaints voiced about how the EBU did nothing.

Brickbats

Martin Österdahl
Appendix Fotografi

And who tends to get the blame when a big organisation is seen to mess up? Someone at the top is always being paid enough to suffer the brickbats. In this case it’s Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor Martin Osterdahl. Not because he is personally responsible for everything that happens in or around the Contest. It’s just how things work.

He didn’t lay down the law with sixty-odd EBU members . he didn’t run on-site catering, personally vet every security guard, personally call the police each and every time anyone so much as looked like they might be about to lose it. He didn’t call Israeli broadcaster Kan and suggest they get Eden Golan to board a plane to Sweden. He didn’t personally see to it that Joost Klein was disqualified. And – as far as I know, but please do feel free to submit evidence to the contrary if you have it – he didn’t rig the votes to make sure the song he wanted to win actually won.

I get how this sounds like I’m defending the organisers. But be under no illusion, dear reader, there were some pretty basic mistakes made by the EBU.

First off, I defend the right for Kan to be present at this contest (under the current rules) and to submit a song. What I cannot defend is the disgraceful conduct of some of its delegation and their commentators. I’m not getting into all of that now, you’ll have read it elsewhere, but that shit needs to stop. What also needs to stop is the fingers in the ears “LALALALALA” from those in charge. More on that presently.

(It’s around about now, you might want to get yourself a tea or coffee, I’m not done)

Communication breakdown

Secondly, and more importantly, Joost. I know I have said that the right thing was done, and I stand by that. However, the way it was communicated was disrespectful to the artist, the person accusing Klein of any misdeed, not to mention the press and each and every delegation. Matters have only been made worse by the EBU updating their press release to accuse AVROTROS of being economical with the truth about what went on.

But how would anyone know what actually happened? The delegations didn’t know what was going on. They were not told even the most basic information and came to sites like this one for the latest news. It should not be for fan media to need to wade through rumours and establish what (if anything) can be called a fact. That is what the official website is for. And if it’s too much of a faff to update the site, there are social feeds. Agile by their nature. Even if the very existence of fan media annoys some ‘professionals’, sites like OnEurope were on hand to research facts and cast aside wild speculation. Only when we knew something for sure did we let our readers know.

And now, let’s return to the man in charge. Osterdahl has to go. But not for the reasons you are thinking. He is the public face and, as such, paid to take flack when shit hits the fan. That’s his job. But he also needs to know what the shit actually is before he can react. It was evident to anyone in Malmö that he wasn’t on top of things. There was a significant lag between the ‘Joost situation’ taking place and him knowing about it. Think I might be making this up? The ‘situation’ occurred on Thursday evening (AVROTROS confirmed this in their statement). And yet Klein was on stage for the Friday afternoon flag parade. His props were in place for his rehearsal. He walked onto the stage and only then did anyone do anything.

Eurovision Reference Group

And then there are the reports and rumours circulating about how some parts of the Israeli delegation caused disruption or upset other performers and support staff. The organisers needed to be proactive not reactive. The Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group has a host of powers available to take action. They can impose fines. They can remove access to the arena or cancel an accreditation. Fan sites were warned they’d be thrown out if they dared screen shot anything taking place. And that’s fine. We signed up to this.

Those in charge only chose to use their powers against the Dutch performer – with justification – and yet, somehow froze when anyone mentioned Israel. More than likely because they were supported by a communications team incapable of crisis management and who had not been fully briefed on how to talk about the politics behind Kan taking part. You can insist Eurovision isn’t political until you’re blue in the face, but anything where votes are exchanged is.

This lack of experience further inflamed an already delicate situation. Rules are made for every eligible broadcaster – even those out of favour with their peers.  

And this is more or less certainly why when Osterdahl appeared on screen, he was met with booing. A mob of fans were seeing their Contest torn apart and they wanted someone to say sorry. To then have the Executive Supervisor missing in action when it was time to hand over the ‘winner’s pack’ in the post-event press conference … I’d be surprised if he lasts beyond the de-brief.

The future

AVROTROS logoHaving said all that, the contest is not in decline. Far from it, but it hasn’t been in the best of health this year. I can imagine AVROTROS demanding their money back – and they need to be allowed a massive sulk.

In the coming months, rules will need to be tweaked. Someone needs to sit down with a crisis management expert and work through what to do if something terrible happens. And if Switzerland could just avoid all those special ‘half price offers’ and ‘free pen if you sign up now’ offers from NATO until after the third week in May 2025, that would be more than welcome.

It’s been a hell of a month!

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Shai
Shai
13 days ago

Thumbs up for a balanced article👍👍👍👍

Won’t say anything about the behavior of the Israeli press/delegation. It’s not my place to say anything.

Demi
Demi
13 days ago

The only crisis management that was needed here was to suspend Israel’s participation. Good lawyers can always argue either side, and they could have found a good reason to justify Israel’s temporary suspension had they wanted to. Moroccan Oil just made this impossible.

JimW
JimW
13 days ago

On the Joost debate I agree that “threatening behaviour” probably was always going to result in Joost’s exclusion. However I think you’re miminising the actions of SVT and in particular the camerawoman involved in this incident. Where does provocation come into your discussion?

With regard to this part of the article – “If someone you didn’t know came into your workplace and, after a confrontation, acted aggressively enough towards a co-worker (male or female)…” – I could counter with “If you invite somebody into your workplace and they ask for a few pieces of consideration after an emotional performance and then you blatently ignore that agreement and continue to ignore it even when asked to stop…”

Joost was in the wrong in his actions but really SVT and their employees also need to be held to account here as well. Codes of conduct apply both ways