Shock waves reverberated around the airwaves yesterday when it emerged that Andorra, the Czech Republic and Montenegro were pulling out of this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest. This came as a further blow to the beleaguered competition, following Hungary’s decision earlier this year not to take part at all.
Markets reacted calmly for once, with the 10-year Czech bond actually gaining slightly in early trading, but there’s no cause for complacency.
First though, a few words of explanation. In our increasingly globalised world, geography means less and less, and not just for firms but for multilateral organisations too. We’re no longer surprised to discover that Turkey is in the North Atlantic according to the people who make maps for NATO or that Israel is in Europe according to soccer’s ruling body FIFA, so why not Morocco and Azerbaijan for Eurovision?
In fact, the “Euro” of the title refers to a body of the European Broadcasting Union, and in this case covers countries that are associated with Eurovision’s pooled media services. News broadcasts around the world rely on the group’s networks to get the stories from the journalists on the ground to the studios, and many countries such as Libya that are eligible for the song contest have never participated.
The “Song” in the name is much harder to justify, indeed critics say it should always be in quotes. The ESC’s defenders say this is unfair to past winners such as La, La La, Boom Bang-A-Bang, Ding-A-Dong, or Diggi-Loo Diggi Ley, and point out that the Contest has provided the springboard to international success for nearly two groups, following ABBA’s 1974 win with Waterloo.
Why are so many pulling out? The answer is the recession. True, sending a man in a glittery leather suit to a concert hall doesn’t cost much in terms of TV budgets. But Eurovision is a rules-based organisation and the winning country has to stage the next competition. This year’s host city, Oslo is paying 25 million euro, compared with around 33 million in Moscow last time.
An OECD study found that such events could act as a catalyst for local development, thanks to improved environment, infrastructure and amenities, global exposure, increased visitor economy and tourism, trade and investment promotion, employment and social and business development.
So why are participants so scared of winning the Eurovision Song Contest? Judging from the experiences analysed by the OECD, it’s because there is little time to plan or integrate the event in local development strategies, and practically none of the audience actually come to the real event anyway.
People watch it on TV and can vote for the songs they like. This means that countries with large diasporas have a better chance of winning since they get votes from the places their migrants have settled in. Could this be another victim of the crisis?
The OECD expects the numbers of legal migrants to fall due to the recession. During a conference to mark the First European Day for Border Guards, Frontex, the European border agency said that a third fewer people were detected attempting to cross external land and sea borders of member states in 2009.
OECD LEED Programme (Local Economic and Employment Development)
The OECD is organising a conference on the evolution of news delivery on 21 June