Editorial – About a week ago we got a mail by one of our reader’s, who criticized the status of the Big 5 in the Eurovision Song Contest. We asked him to write an editorial and he agreed. Here is thus the first reader editorial by JKF Irish! Tell us what you think in the comment section.
Due to the financial constraints on UEFA it has been announced that Spain, France, England, Germany and Italy have been given automatic entry into the next European Football Championships finals themselves. It is believed the contest would not exist without their money. This means that the bottom five in the qualifying rounds that would have qualified under the old system will now lose their place to these big five.
The boards of the national Football Associations have expressed their gratitude to the big 5 for saving the economically endangered competition.
I know, it sounds stupid. There would be war in many European nations if this happened. No non big 5 country would sacrifice themselves just to let a bigger nation get an automatic place. Yes it would never happen in soccer but it has been happening in every Eurovision Song Contest since 2000. This is the year according to Wikipedia that the rules were changed to allow the then big 4 to automatically qualify.
As you realise you are reading a piece about the big 5 you may inwardly groan and think to yourself, “..yeah it is unfair…..but the Eurovision needs the money……and well it just wouldn’t feel right to not have them in the final…”. My aim with this editorial is to challenge the acceptance that there is about the existence of the big 5. I will use the three areas I’ve just mentioned.
“…yeah it is unfair…”
I think that everybody would generally accept this. Unfortunately I think us Eurovision fans seem to be too polite. Since a semi-final was first introduced in 2004 the big 5 countries have between them come 20th or worse 17 times. I believe that implies that on 17 occasions these big 5 countries would probably not have gotten through to the finals if they had fairly competed in a semi-final format. This then also blocked 17 other countries from being allowed to progress to the final. Perhaps your country failed to progress from a semi-final by a few points the year that a big 5 country came last in the final? All competing nations in the Eurovision deserve a fair and equal right to compete to win. There are no divine rights to entry in the Eurovision final, well there shouldn’t be.
One of the strange coincidences of the big 5 is that as I understand media coverage France and U.K. don’t like the Eurovision too much. For years the U.K.’s Terry Wogan scoffed at it, and his audience loved it. When they started to do badly they blamed the new eastern nations for block voting, ignoring that they were privileged with automatic qualification to the final. Surely the advantage is on the side of the big 5.
“…but the Eurovision needs the money..”
Recent years have seen the money spent on the production of the Eurovision sky rocket. Is this necessary? Has the huge stage and special effects improved the show? I believe no. Some acts look lost on the big stage and manage it poorly, such as The Netherlands in 2012. Also the special effects only really improve things if done creatively. Germany did a good job with this when they turned round the green room wall into the main hall. Otherwise they are just a smoke, wind and light show which adds nothing really.
The Guardian newspaper of 28th of May 2008 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/may/28/bbc.television) had an interesting article about the big 5. There was concern that these countries were being disadvantaged because of the success of eastern European countries. The EBU representative said that the scale of sponsorship the Eurovision attracts would supplement any loss of revenue from the big 5 pulling out. For some reason the discussions that were supposed to have been had at that time led to nothing. But it is extremely enlightening that the EBU itself has questioned the need for the big 5 money.
For ten years until Italy’s return the Eurovision somehow coped with just a big 4. Or maybe Italy’s contribution isn’t really that big. This would make you think that Italy were given the big 5 status as part of the package to secure their re-entry.
As for extra revenue sources for the competition that could be found. Why not have each song sponsored with the sponsors logo branded with the song. How about all countries being allowed to vote in both semi-finals, (which I think would be fairer anyway), and generating more revenue from televoting. Why not just increase the cost of televoting?
As for the fees paid to the EBU. Maybe these big 5 countries do carry an unfair burden. Perhaps there should be a standard entrance fee. If this meant that some countries couldn’t afford to compete some years well that would be a pity but understandable.
Perhaps only the countries that want to host the Eurovision should be asked to host it. The hosts could be decided years in advance via an Olympics type system. This would mean that only the countries who feel they can afford it would host it, reducing the need for an EBU bailout fund. So the fees needed to be paid to the EBU would go down, therefore eliminating the need for the big 5.
I genuinely believe that if the will was there to find new sources of funding such sources would be found. Is the real question, “Could the Eurovision survive without the big 5’s money”, or is it, “Why hasn’t the EBU broadened its scope for funding or looked at reducing the costs of the competition so as to create a level playing pitch for all”.
“…and well it wouldn’t feel right to not have them in the final…”
Who says that; those who are in the big 5 or those outside of the exclusive club? Yes these countries do all have distinguished histories in the Eurovision. Unfortunately it has to be said, “Well so what”. Surely Sweden can argue that on pedigree alone it has the right to automatic qualification?
The Guardian article that I mentioned earlier mentioned a BBC representative saying that it would be odd for them to broadcast the final if they were not in it. There was a response from the EBU saying that this is exactly the problem all the other non-big 5 broadcasters face. It has been suggested to me that one of the reasons for the big 5 is that Germany failed to qualify for the final in 1996. Is it really just a matter of pride for these countries? Are they bad losers? Is the EBU afraid to upset them? Do they have a problem accepting that in the new Europe they are not the centre of the universe anymore? Perhaps these questions are unfounded but I personally can’t help believe there is some truth to them.
Each individual has to decide where they stand on this, with justice and fairness or with insecure broadcasting companies who try to buy their way out of humiliation.
May I also make a plea for more openness from the EBU as to how the Eurovision is actually funded. Perhaps that may be sensitive information but when funding is given as the excuse for the big 5, well then transparency is essential.
Dropping the big 5 status wouldn’t be all bad for them. It could result in a reinvention of the contest in these countries. If they really just wanted to leave after continuous failure well then so be it. They could always come back. Italy did. If a country has lost heart in the Eurovision then they shouldn’t be expected to keep with it. Their negativity would drive everyone else down.
So that brings to an end my discourse on the subject. Thank you for reading, especially if you disagree with every word I said. As I said earlier my purpose is to challenge the passive acceptance there seems to be about the big 5 amongst Eurovision fans. Please do comment below if I succeeded to do this.