HSTY 2605 Essay
Is the European Song Contest only an annual cultural event or does it have political undertones? The European Song Contest (ESC) is far more than simply a cultural event. It is an event, which not only portrays the political views of the time, but also effects how political events will be shaped in the future. The organisers of the ESC have attempted to maintain the contest as being apolitical however politically significant events constantly occur. Through this essay I will use a number of examples of different countries and acts throughout the history of the contest that have portrayed political sentiments of the time, and ways in which the ESC has influenced politics through its results. The ESC is a competition held annually between all active members of the European Broadcasting Union. It is the largest festival for popular music in the world, with up to six hundred million people watching internationally every year. Each country participating in the contest votes for their favourite act, excluding themselves, with twelve points going to the most popular, ten to the second, and so forth. The contest has been running for over fifty-five years, this year, and over this time there have been various instances where the contest has turned from being a cultural event, into an arena to showcase a political message. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) claims that the ESC is not a political stage and that any act that is too politicised shall not be included in the competition. This occurred in 2009 when the EBU informed Georgia that they would have to alter their entry which was entitled ‘We Don’t Want to Put In.’ Which was an obvious stab at Russia, which had been attempting to control Georgia. Georgia altered their song but the message was still clear. The EBU does attempt to keep the ESC apolitical. Voting rights in the ESC are handled by the broadcasting organisations of each country, not by the government as a way to ‘prevent the kind of political interference by individual countries.’ The ESC was initially aimed to be a ‘contest of peace’ and the organisers were of the view that they ‘had to be above politics’. Yet there are extremely obvious political messages portrayed in Eurovision. In 1969 when the contest was being held in Spain, Austria refused to take part as a protest against the dictator Franco. In 1975 Greece withdrew from the contest as it was going to be Turkey’s first year in the competition and the following year Greece’s entry to the competition was a song, which protested Turkish occupation of Cyprus. ‘Eurovision is legendary as an arena for settling diplomatic scores, venting ethnic grievance, baiting national rivals and undermining governments.’ For all the EBU attempts to keep the ESC from becoming politicised, it has undoubtedly become a forum for political messages to be stated. It is claimed that the ESC is becoming more and more politicised with countries voting based not on the merits on the song, but on loyalty or to show support for a certain country. The analysing of voting patterns shows that certain countries tend to give their points to the same group of countries, generally because of their geopolitical relation. However it is claimed that this is not because of politicised bias, but instead because these countries are from similar area’s and share similar cultures and therefore enjoy each other’s taste in music. However throughout the history of the contest, particularly in recent years, there has been far more evidence which proves that there is indeed an agenda other than song merits behind who is voted for in the ESC. Another reason the ESC is claimed to be becoming politicised is the high number of citizens of European countries living outside of where they were born and claim to come from. The rules of the ESC state that one cannot vote for their own country, however this does not stop people from voting for their country if they are not living there. As a...
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