Christer Björkman Berates the BBC, Wogan and Norton in Interview

christer bjorkmanEurovision 2016 – Swedish producer Christer Björkman has caused a bit of a storm in the UK after accusing the late Terry Wogan of turning the Eurovision Song Contest into a joke. Björkman was asked why the UK doesn’t appear to take the event seriously. 

Björkman said of Wogan,

“He did this for 28 years and his ­commentary always forced the mockery side and there is a grown-up generation in Britain that doesn’t know anything better.”

“He raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever. It totally spoiled Eurovision. Because of what Terry Wogan did, the UK don’t put in their best efforts.”

Björkman was speaking to i News at a London lecture ahead of Stockholm’s Polar Music Prize. The national UK papers have run the story, outraged at the disrespectful comments so soon after Wogan’s death. Björkman did not hold back about current commentator Graham Norton either and blamed the BBC for allowing it.

“Terry Wogan did the commentary for 25 years and it was always mocking. Now Graham Norton also has this flippant tone. It doesn’t work. It’s a lot easier to joke than to win.”

Twitter responded as Twitter does, and soon Wogan was trending. Most UK tweets defending the beloved presenter and many ironically proving exactly Bjorkman’s argument.

tweets Wogan

Björkman doesn’t rate the UK’s chances highly this year saying

Joe and Jake is a fairly good song and the boys are charming. It’s a step in the right direction but no, it won’t win. If you sent another Katrina singing ‘Love Shine a Light‘, that would make a huge difference.”

Björkman suggested that the UK should stop being  Big 5 country, compete in the semi-finals and start to send decent songs. He also defended the accusation of block voting being to blame for the UK’s string of poor results.

“Block voting is something you’ve made up. You sound like the French now. We all love you. We all want you to be good in this competition. It’s just that you don’t send any good stuff. Why don’t you?

“You have to say ‘we are taking this seriously and we will not stop doing it until we succeed’. You have to accept what Eurovision is – it’s not a singing competition or a song competition, it is music entertainment.”

Björkman suggested a Melodifestivalen-style competition in the UK, run by someone like Simon Cowell would improve the quality of the UK entries.

The UK is not easily persuaded from its 30 year’s love of laughing at Eurovision. The current Metro poll is showing this result…

UK metro poll

What do you think to Björkman’s comments? Should the UK get serious about the biggest music event in the world, or should we be left to wanting kitsch and fun one night a year?

UK tweet kitsch

44 comments on “Christer Björkman Berates the BBC, Wogan and Norton in Interview

  1. I tend to agree with Bjorkman here. If they UK don’t take it more seriously they’ll never win the contest again. In the 70’s they had good songs and artists. I know there are good artists who expressed to want to go or write (like Hurts and Scissor sisters) but the BBC don’t take their offer. Sad……….

  2. Many of you will agree with his sentiments no doubt a bit of brit bashing always goes down well on the continent, but seriously you can’t have the man in charge of the contest and even the running order, openly expressing his disdain towards certain countries in the contest!

    • Well a lot of EBU guys are getting told off for this type of behavior

      Remember the guy last year that got found out for sending emails to people trying to blacklist Mans Zelmerlow?

      Wouldn’t be surprising if SVT started following suit if the EBU are allowing such behavior

  3. Everybody knew who Wogan was. Ask me who commentates for France, Spain or Russia and I couldn’t tell you. The man was iconic and he knew the voting patterns and who would vote for who. Everyone can and it can’t be denied that it happens

    Sure we’ve had our share of novelty songs but who hasn’t? The U.K. have sent serious songs in the past. Joe & Jake aren’t exactly singing a novelty song and the Beeb have tried to do well. They did genuinely feel that Engleberts name would do well for us. When we sent Molly everyone loved her. The critics and the fans all thought we’d do well but we didn’t.

    Last year Sweden won with a song solely because that had the novelty of having an interactive background. Lord knows it was not the best song of last year.

    I hate Bjorkman personally. He’s taking originality and uniqueness away from the contest by making it bland. He’s taking control of it despite no one really wanting him to do so. Just do one.

    • Agreed and signed 100pc

      In future even if I like Sweden I won’t vote for them because I know a Swedish win means more Bjorkman, more of his interfering with the rules.

      Sweden’s 7th win will probably see Eurovision Second Chance on the friday after semi 2 and before the final!

  4. “It’s a lot easier to joke than to win”

    Wise words. :)

  5. Bjorkman is 100 % right. With all due respect to someone who has passed away, Wogan was a terrible, classless, arrogant commentator and, while not the sole factor in the british arrogant attitude towards the contest, he played a big role with his awful commentary in the current view of eurovision in the UK. Norton is a better but still not great.

    The tweets posted here are disgusting and showcase the british cultural arrogance in terms of music. Yes you have a big music industry congrats but other european countries have great singers and music to show.

    He is also right about Joe & Jake – Likable but it will go nowhere. In a year that the other big 5 countries are trying some of their best (even if I do not like Italy it appeals to people apparently) the UK is again the sad exception.

    My opinion on the british participation is clear : BBC has to either try to educate the british public on the contest and take it seriously themselves by choosing better or artists or withdraw for good.

    • It is not his place to say that this or the other contestant “is going anywhere”. He is the producer of the show. He decides the running order. He decides the voting system.

      Don’t the words “conflict of interest” mean anything anymore?

      • He has the right to offer his advice. He is doing a favour to BBC with what he says – its actually flattering for them that he bothered to answer that at all.

        The running order is decided by the whole production team, not Bjorkman himself plus it is tedious to think he would put the UK at a disadvantaging position because he holds those very well founded opinions on how they go about their participation.

        There is no conflict of interest. There would be if expressly said something along the lines of “x entry is better thsn the UK entry” and then the x entry had a better position in the running order.

        • According to Eurovision.tv,C. Bjorkman is responsible for the starting order and not the whole production team: http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=meet_the_core_team_for_2016

          • The running order is decided by the host broadcaster BUT it also has to be approved by the EBU officials (Jan Ola Sand, Sietse Bekker etc) according to what was said when this running order module was first introduced. There are several layers of scrutiny on that matter.

            • So,you refute the official statement?I suppose that C.Bjorkman has appointed a team dealing with the running order but ultimately he’s the one to give the green light.I’m not saying it because i have something against him or because i believe he would do anything to hurt the UK’s zero chances for a decent result but we can’t change the facts just because they don’t serve our arguments.

  6. It’s a difficult one for us UK fans… we did grow up with Wogan and it being laughed at… but to be fair back there there was sometimes a lot to laugh at, it was brilliant. It was one f the only ways the bbd could get people to watch it. It is embedded in the culture of or country and you can’t just dismiss that or belittle it I don’t think. It’s not going change overnight, generations of us grew up with it and have fond memories.

    As someone who then became more passionate about the contest, (although I love a good fun entry in moderation), I got incredibly frustrated with the BBC’s continuation of this culture and they just haven’t modernised.

  7. Even though I essentially agree with his comments about both Wogan and Norton (for Wogan not just the contest, but anything european was a continuous running joke, for Norton the ESC is nothing but a never-ending camp-athon) I find not only disgraceful but scandalous that someone who is at the same time producer of this year’s show and swedish head of delegation, who has so much open and underground influence on how the show is run, is permitted to openly express his disdain about two Big-5 nations without anyone batting an eyelid and forcing him to go.

    It is funny that he berates Wogan because his arrogant manner of how to define the show (not a song contest, just entertainment) can only be compared to Wogan’s. And unlike Wogan, he actually has the power to impose his point of view on how the show is run. He then contradicts himself by saying that the UK should start sending some decent songs (why? didn’t he just say it is not a song contest?). And “helpfully” suggests that the UK should start a Melodifestivalen-type show, with Sweden of course having the opportunity to export their “know-how” like they do in so many other countries. How corrupt and how lame.

    When was the last time the nordics who run the show as they please (the reference group has three scandinavian members out of seven and they make up a majority along with Germany and Holland) actually encourage the two countries with the biggest music industries in Europe (Britain and France) to take the contest seriously? The last time anyone did was Russia when they hosted in 2009 and incidentally that was the last time those two countries finished inside the top-10 by actually sending some of the best they’ve got. He may think that the best approach to the contest is sending copycats of whatever commercial is playing on the radio, but that is slowly making the ESC less rather than more “relevant”. To put it simply, there are much better places to listen to commercial anglo-pop and rock than Eurovision.

    I really appreciate what Sweden has given to the contest over the years, however I really wish that for the health of this contest there was a way to keep them away for a while. And take their australian baby along with them.

    • I could not agree more with everything you wrote.

    • I disagree with almost every word in that comment except some parts about Wogan in the first paragraph. This contest owes a lot to Sweden and Bjorkman’s efforts for rising in popularity (and credibility recently).

    • In 2009 the UK didn’t send their best obviously.As much as a respect ALW the song was a corny and dated ballad.France sent a wonderful artist but “S’il fallait le faire” wasn’t a winning entry by any strech of the imagination.

      • I hardly see what anyone’s personal opinions of these two entries have to do with my comment. My point is that 2009 was the only time someone actually encouraged and engaged these two broadcasters to send some very succesful artists, instead of patronising and berating them like Bjorkman does here. That he does so in such an arrogant, rude and off-putting manner, shedding event the pretense and appearance of neutrality that any description of professionalism would demand in his position is strartling and shocking. No matter what anyone thinks of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Patricia Kaas, they had a career that this impressario of nothingness can only dream of.

        The only way the nordics keep their stranglehold of the contest is to keep Britain and France disinterested and disengaged and then blaming them for “not taking it seriously”. Actually engaging them in a positive instead of a patronising manner would be very risky and if mr Bjorkmann really was as bluntly honest as he pretends he is he would have admiited that.

        • …instead, the last three draws done by broadcasters ruined France’s chances!

        • And why should they be encouraged in the first place?Why put them in the role of someone who needs help?They just don’t care enough or don’t know what is relevant in eurovision nowdays.What Bjorkman said that it’s easier to joke about something than to try to win it is 100% true.The nordics love eurovision and they offer us great shows each NF season.I don’t understand all this bashing.I also criticize SVT’S efforts to push their views on what direction should the contest go but the criticism should be targeted and moderate.The demonization of the nordics won’t improve things.

          • I agree they don’t need to be in the role of someone who needs help. They do not need to be simultaneously bashed in such a haughty manner by the producer of the show either. My point is, if these people really do care about Eurovision being “relevant” and “credible”, then they need the two most important music industries in Europe to contribute to that. It is a no-brainer. But instead they use the contest to benefit their own music industry alone.

            And please, the scandinavian NF season this year was absolutely pitiful. With the possible exception of Iceland (and I have some serious reservations about them too) none of them deserves to be in the final this year. Plus I don’t think a national final is the right way to go for either Britain or France right now. The way France has approached it this year seems much more sensible to me. But then again I am not Bjorkman trying to sell them my copyrighted show.

  8. The glitter and gloss bubble has no manners, it seems. CB may think whatever he wants, but who does he think he is to say these things in public when Sweden is organizing the contest and having such a strong influence in ESC nowadays? Soon, he will be saying which countries should be entering and which songs they should be singing. The bubble will eventually burst and I can only hope that ESC will not be harmed in the wake of the explosion.

    • Oh keep the sheer hatred on mr. Bjorkman going :-) I love how the man who has helped the contesy become relevant more than anyone else irritates your crowd so much :-)

      The only ones bursting will be certain fans’ heads who cant stop whining because the contest is no more datedfest and the laughing stock of Europe. The contest itself will continue progressing hopefully !

      • How comes that you think that the contest has become more relevant? You can hardly know the reactions in all countries. Here in Germany f. e. almost all journalists and music critics argee that the contest is on a wrong path, namely on a path towards bland and similar commodities. That does not sound like “more relevant” imo, at least not for Germany, which is among Europe’s biggest markets.
        And don’t get me wrong. I am happy for you that you like the direction ESC is heading into but claiming international relevance simply because you like sth seems a bit strange imo.

        • I am simplt saying what I experience. In the 2000s you would nevet listen to an esc song outside that 1 saturday evening. No country would actually try its best but go for the “who can be more novel factor”. If we just look at the effect the changes to the contest had to Estonia since 2009 for example, Latvia more recently , The Netherlands or even Spain and France, the return of Italy and yes even in the nordic countries (Norway and Finland still hold records for more last places) in terms of musical contributions the difference is startling. We went from “Leto Svet” to “Randajad” and “Goodbye to Yesterday”, from “Wolves of the Sea” to “Love Injected” , from “Shine” to “Calm After The Storm” and so on. The difference is startling and yes the contest is much more relevant – its not about my personal view its a tangible fact.
          Germany also contributed to that direction with Lena and Roman Lob mostly – according to you the german journalists you refer to must also consider such entries bland. And again, given charting and sales figures it seems the public disagrees with those journalists.
          My friends outside the esc fandom can say that they actually like songs as songs from esc every year while that never happened before.

          And finally : Constantly growing viewing figures for the actual contest – who would have thought that the contest one day would reach 200 million viewers ?

          There is not a single numerical or tangible fact that does not show the musical relevance of the contest increasing dramatically.

          And that is thanks to the efforta of a group of people like Jan Ola Sand and Christer Bjorkman who inspired broadcasters and gave them the incentive, either by the introduction of the jury vote or the higher engagement and communication of the contest through social platforms, to try harder and actually think of the music.

          The contest is living some amazing times imo, its best since the 70s. Lets keep the momentum going.

          • I is probably different in every country. In some ESC becomes more relevant atm, and in others (like Germany) it doesn’t. I can only see 3 songs that are relevant within the framework of contemporary pop music: Australia, Latvia and Sweden … perhaps Croatia too. And then we have some entries that have merits that go beyond fashions: Estonia, Italy, Serbia and Ukraine. The rest is bad, generic or been there, done that (an much better). :(

            • You cant deny the fact that the german attitude towards esc pre-210 and after 2010 is different. I cant believe for a second things havent changed after Lena.

              The songs you mention are contemporary indeed (apart from Italy which I considee hopelessly dated personally) but its not only them. In my view Switzerland is relevant, Bulgaria is relevant, Germany is very relevant, Spain is very relevant in its latin context and of course France.Armenia and Azerbaijan are not my taste but they are trying as well. Norway also is pretty relevant even if the song is a bit disjointed.This is already a great amount of relevant songs. In the pre 2009 era even one such song in the contest was sought after and could not be found.

              A few years ago we were looking for a credible song among all the novelty and this year the worst novelties come from San Marino and the over the top presentation of the romanian entry which would be considered normal by pre 2009 standards.

              I tell you, these are imo esc’s brightest times in decades.

            • ESC was looked upon differently for as long as Mr. Raab was in charge. The reputation has declined again ever since 2013 and now the contest is close to being a laughing stock again, in particular after we got such a ridiculous top 3 last year.

            • I see nothing wrong with 2 out of 3 entries in the top 3 last year. And Germany gave 12p to the only one I have a problem with.
              Mans was on the same wavelength of contemporary pop Lena began in esc imo.

      • No one is hating anyone, Guitar. CB has done good things for MF and ESC, but he has also done harm to both shows. That is all.

        • The news here is that YOU admit mr. Bjorkman has done good things for MF and ESC. That’s groundbreaking news to me.

          Anyway imo he has done overwhelming good to the contest. If there is one thing I would change it’s the well known voting system – abolish what they will use now and implement the previous system with added televoting scrutiny.

          • Guitar, I do not see the world in black and white. I just think that he is doing more harm than good to MF and ESC now. That is why I agreed witha what Michos wrote.

  9. But then in a way I wonder why Björkman feels entitled to publicly criticize a broadcaster. Isn’t the UK approach to ESC entirely the BBC’s (and the British public’s) choice? This guy really suffers from hubris and expects everything relating to ESC to go the way he wants to. He’d probably love to see a MF (his product) in every single country. At the end of the day, I’d call this a fascist approach … even though I agree with some issues he mentioned (see above).

  10. IMO It seems kinda rude statement since he is like the producer of whole show, but I have to admit that actually I agree with many things that he mentioned there.

  11. He acts like he created the ESC. Honestly, how can somebody be this disrespectful? He tries to make the contest his own little toy that he can manipulate. If he is so bothered about what he thinks a whole country assumes, then why doesn’t he just kick out the UK entirely. Some people…

  12. OMG shut up will you!! Even I as a Swede wants Eurovision out of Sweden now! I hope it takes at least 10 years for us to win again, cause this has to stop with all the changes and stuff Christer has forced onto the contest and now this statement, I understand some of the ´changes but seriously I want Eurovision to be Eurovision. It is imo not supposed to be the best music show in the world, it is supposed to have flaws in it! #LeaveEurovisionAloneBjörkman!

  13. So this is really big news in the UK. I have been reading some of the thousands of comments on various sites. Unfortunately most of these comments are proof that Björkman was right.

  14. The whole buzz in the UK around mr. Bjorkman’s statement shows that they do not care about esc as little as they claim. It bugs them that someone, and someone that has paved the way on how to do esc the right way, points out the obvious. But they react with the typical, dismissive, “we are better than you all” arrogance. If only they turned some of that arrogance into humility and positive feedback on BBC to provide a truly good entry but no, its the contest’s fault.

    Sad and pathetic.

  15. Arrogance from both sides if you ask me…

    • Yes. However, CB must be more careful before he says certain things. This time, it was the UK, tomorrow it’s anyone’s guess.

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