The Politics of Eurovision

So Serbia won for the first time the Eurovision contest (the last and only time Yugoslavia won with Riva in 1990, the country fell apart…). Goran‘s blog at B92 is great on the domestic debates on Marija Serifovic and the fact that she does not resemble the conventional singers who make it Serbia…
Yesterday I was able to witness Terry Wogan’s legendary commentary for the first time…and instead I got Jacques Chirac. Wogan’s view of Eastern Europe was awfully reminiscent of Chirac when he called the countries of Eastern Europe “mal élevée” (badly educated). Wogan, annoyed at the apparent block voting, even called a new wall (I shall not comment on the tastelessness of this suggestion). Teaming prejudice, his commentary displayed a great degree of ignorance. He was upset at the voting along certain geographic blocks (ex-Soviet Union, Baltics, Balkans, etc.) and apparently had particular disdain at the East European for this habit.
His commentary ignored the fact that although Western Europe might be economically more powerful, there are simply more countries in “Eastern Europe”. Of the 42 participating countries, only 16 are from ‘Western Europe’ (without Greece), so a disbalance in favor of the East should not surprise anybody (and let’s not forget that the only four countries which do not have to earn their place are… Germany, France, UK and Spain). Furthermore, the accusation of block voting ignores the real regional political dynamics. Geographic proximity often makes voting for each other more difficult. Nationalist stereotypes would suggest that it would be easier for Turkey to, let’s say vote for the UK, than Armenia. This is in fact the fascinating bit of the competition how televoting meant that politically problematic votes (like Turkey for Armenia, Croatia for Serbia) are no longer excluded by ‘politically correct’ juries. Eurovision-Citizens calling in have often demonstrated to the break some conventional animosities. When Austria supports Germany, Turkey Armenia, Croatia Serbia, etc. then this is voting despite (past) political considerations, not because of them.
Geographical patterns exist, but they are not rigid blocks but rather patterns determined not only by geography or supposed regional sympathy. Musical tastes differ across Europe and not everything will appeal everywhere, and this after all the fun of the whole spectacle.

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5 Responses to The Politics of Eurovision

  1. Will says:

    But the point of the voting isn’t to ‘break conventional animosities’, or show how well we all get on these days! It’s supposed to be about the performances! I think that was what irked Wogan.

  2. Florian Bieber says:

    Sure, but the fact that regional tensions have existed suggest that regional voting is not just based on voting for your neighbors because you vote in blocks. Maybe neighbors can more easily identify with the music styles of their region? It’s just more complex than just block voting…

  3. Florian Bieber says:

    Here’s a contribution from a student essay on the topic of when the transition is over in Eastern Europe related to the Eurovision: “…there is still the block mentality in Eastern Europe, showing it hasn’t integrated that greatly, this is made most apparent in the Eurovision Song Contest where the East European Countries will all vote for each other. This was seen this year when the Serbian entry won, despite how crap it was, because the Eastern Europe will vote for it’s own.”
    I guess Terry Wogan’s arguments won over mine…

  4. Pingback: Notes for Eurovision « Florian Bieber

  5. Pingback: Notes on Eurovision « Florian Bieber

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