May 23, 2019

Eurovision Is Always Political

“Europe’s most wide-ranging election is about to take place. No, not the elections for the European Parliament, which will see voters from the European Union’s 28 member states take to the ballot box later this month, but rather the voting on May 18 for the final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision, the popular televised musical competition that has been held annually since 1956, will draw votes from 41 states, most of which are from Europe. But that’s not the only way the contest embraces political conventions. Though the organizer of the contest has long marketed it as a nonpolitical and unifying force, it has historically been dominated by the politics of the time.

Eurovision’s very premise is a nod to political relations. In the early years of the contest, its organizer — the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the association for national public service broadcasting organizations from Europe and the Mediterranean region — debated whether the names of national broadcasting organizations or states should appear on the scoreboard. It decided that national identifications were more succinct and recognizable. They also evoke more emotions, from patriotism to prejudice, making the competition more enticing.

This is why Eurovision voting has historically been the subject of political analysis, as academics and journalists ponder the meaning of which national audiences voted for which songs. It has also made Eurovision an important tool of cultural diplomacy — and a point of contention.”

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