Italy – Yesterday was a historic date for the Eurovision Song Contest. After 13 long years one of the biggest European countries announced it’s return to Europe’s most favourite TV-show: Italy. The return of the Mediterranean country came as a big surprise to me. After the final of X-Factor (whose winner was reported to go to Eurovision 3 months ago) passed without a single word being uttered about a possible Italian Eurovision return, I was 99% convinced that 2011, just as the other 13 years before, would not have an Italian entry. I would not have bet a single euro on their return. Yesterday eurovision.tv said they would disclose news that no Eurovision fan would forget in his lifetime and we won’t because Italy’s return signifies much more than just an additional song in the running:
Why did Italy return?
This is of course pure speculation, but the fact that Germany (A Big4-country) won this year is certainly one of the reasons for Italy’s return. The fact that a big, central European, traditional Eurovision country can win, even after all the changes the Eurovision Song Contest went through since Italy’s withdrawal 1997, might have been the trigger. However, Italy never withdrew due to political voting (as Austria did). Their argument back in 97 was that they wanted to concentrate on their popular San Remo-Festival rather than the Eurovision Song Contest. Hence, there must be other reasons as well.
If we are completely honest to ourselves, we have to admit, even tough we love the Eurovision Song Contest, that in the 90s and in the beginning of the 00s it was not a competition that produced hits all over the continent (as in the 70s). The last 2 years we had winning songs that actually reached the Top5 of a bunch of different countries. “Fairytale” by Alexander Rybak and “Satellite” by Lena (and most notably their success on the charts) have made the contest more interesting to labels and respected musicians. The fact that popular artists like Patricia Kaas or groups like MaNga participated is also an indication for the growing popularity of Eurovision. Italy might have understood that the contest has changed fundamentally. If this development continues our favourite TV-show might see a new peak of its popularity (remember the 70s?).
How will Italy return?
As I said earlier, the rumor is that the winner of the casting show X-Factor will represent Italy in Düsseldorf. The winner of latest season that just ended was Nathalie Giannitrapani. Her debut single is called “In punta di piedi” (On tiptoes). No information has been disclosed by RAI yet whether Nathalie will actually be their entrant. One thing is almost sure: Italy will sing in Italian. They always did and I don’t think they will change this tradition (and they shouldn’t)
Another important question is whether Italy will become part of the 4 countries that qualify for the final automatically as they’re the biggest financial contributors to the contest. The Big4 (Germany, France, UK, Spain) would thus turn into a Big5. According to oikotimes Italy has not yet applied for this special status, but further information about this issue is expected to be released shortly. In my opinion there is no reason why Italy shouldn’t be part of the Big5. With their 60 million inhabitants and good economic position they will surely pay a bigger participation fee than Spain does right now.
What impact does Italy’s return have?
First of all, Italy’s return is striking evidence that the popularity of our favourite contest has been and still is rising. This amazing return represents a gain in viewers for the contest of about 5-6 million (my prediction). It also means a growing fan base and 60 million more people who might buy the Eurovision winner after the contest.
Italy’s participation fee will also help smaller countries: The costs the produce the contest will not grow just because one more country is participating, but if that country is Italy it means a big increase in revenue from participation fees for the EBU. We can now hope (and expect) that the participation fees for the other countries might be lowered. That way countries like Andorra, Montenegro or Slovakia, which do not participate due to financial issues, may be able to return sooner than expected.
Furthermore, the fact that a big national broadcaster like the RAI takes the contest seriously again might change the attitude of other countries that do not seem to be very interested in the contest and particularly in their results anymore (You know who I mean).
All in all, Italy’s return could really turn out to be a historic change of the Eurovision Song Contest. Let’s hope they will stay even if their result is not perfect.
Starting tomorrow, this blog will celebrate Italy’s return with a special “Italy Week” where we’ll look back at their history in the Eurovision Song Contest, their best entries and thus the reason why they were missed so thoroughly by Eurovision fans. Come back to celebrate with us. and stay tuned!
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