Critiche e controversie

L’Eurovision Song Contest è soggetto a diverse critiche riguardanti sia il contenuto musicale, sia il meccanismo di individuazione del vincitore.

Sul primo punto, in passato si riteneva che il festival desse spazio solo al genere pop o schlager, adesso invece si ritiene che molte canzoni abbiano poco a che spartire con l’evento, perché ritenute scadenti.

Il meccanismo di votazione si basa per lo più sul televoto (ma alcuni paesi usano la giuria, ritenuta più equa) e tende a favorire paesi con cui si intrattengono buone relazioni politiche, soprattutto quelli confinanti, piuttosto che valutare la qualità artistica delle canzoni, dei cantanti, della performance o degli autori. Con la recente apertura ai paesi dell’est Europa, frammentata in molte realtà una volta ben coese, questo ha portato a una intensificazione del fenomeno. Ciò accadde soprattutto nei paesi dell’ex Urss, nell’ex Jugoslavia (che partecipò per anni come unico paese), nei paesi nordici (Svezia, Norvegia, Danimarca, Islanda, Finlandia), e tra Grecia e Cipro che da anni si scambiano quando possibile i 12 punti. I difensori della formula sostengono che paesi vicini condividono cultura e quindi gusti musicali e che dunque appare naturale che siano portati a favorire nel voto i paesi vicini. Frequente è però anche il voto “diaspora”, cioè degli emigranti che vivono lontano dal loro paese e lo votano in massa, il caso più evidente è quello della Germania e la Francia che hanno quasi sempre assegnato non meno di 10 punti alla Turchia. Per limitare questi fenomeni, dal 2009 televoto e giurie contano alla pari.

Altra regola controversa è l’esistenza dei cosiddetti Big Five (Regno Unito, Germania, Francia, Spagna e dal 2011 Italia) che hanno in ogni caso diritto alla finale, vantaggio non sempre ben visto, anche se tali Paesi danno contributi finanziari maggiori all’EBU per le sue attività.

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Criticism and controversy. The contest has been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical content and what some believe to be a political element to the contest, and several controversial moments have been witnessed over the course of its history

Musical style and presentation. Some criticism has been levied against the musical quality of past competing entries, with a perception that certain music styles seen as being presented more often than others in an attempt to appeal to as many potential voters as possible among the international audience. Power ballads, folk rhythms and bubblegum pop have been considered staples of the contest in recent years, leading to allegations that the contest has become formulaic. Other traits in past competing entries which have regularly been mocked by media and viewers include an abundance of key changes and lyrics about love and/or peace, as well as the pronunciation of English by non-native users of the language. Given Eurovision is principally a television show, over the years many performances have attempted to attract the viewers’ attention through means other than music, and elaborate lighting displays, pyrotechnics, and extravagant on-stage theatrics and costumes having become a common sight at recent contests; criticism of these tactics have also been levied as being a method of distracting the viewer from the weak musical quality of some of the competing entries.

Although many of these traits are ridiculed in the media and elsewhere, for some these traits are celebrated and considered an integral part of what makes the contest appealing. Although many of the competing acts each year will fall into some of the categories above, the contest has seen a diverse range of musical styles in its history, including heavy metal, jazz, country, electronic, R&B and hip hop.

Political controversies. As artists and songs ultimately represent a country, the contest has seen several controversial moments where political tensions between competing countries as a result of frozen conflicts, and in some cases open warfare, are reflected in the contest’s performances and voting.

The continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has affected the contest on numerous occasions. Conflicts between the two countries at Eurovision escalated quickly since both countries began competing in the late 2000s, resulting in fines and displinary action for both countries’ broadcasters over political stunts, and a forced change of title for one competing song due to allegations of political subtext. Interactions between Russia and Ukraine in the contest had originally been positive, however as political relations soured between the two countries so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. Complaints were levied against Ukraine’s winning song in 2016, “1944”, whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, but which the Russian delegation claimed had a greater political meaning in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As Ukraine prepared to host the contest following year, Russia’s selected representative, Yuliya Samoylova, was barred from entering the country due to illegally entering Crimea according to Ukrainian law. Russia eventually pulled out of the contest after offers for Samoylova to perform remotely were refused by Russia’s broadcaster, Channel One Russia, resulting in the EBU reprimanding the Ukrainian broadcaster, UA:PBC. In the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War, Georgia’s planned entry for the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia, “We Don’t Wanna Put In”, also caused controversy as the lyrics appeared to criticise Russian leader Vladimir Putin. After requests by the EBU for changes to the lyrics were refused, Georgian broadcaster subsequently withdrew the nation from the event.

Israel’s participation in the contest has resulted in several controversial moments in the past. The country’s first appearance in 1973, less than a year after the Munich massacre, saw an increased security presence at the contest’s venue in Luxembourg City. Israel’s first win in 1978 proved controversial for Arab nations broadcasting the contest which did not recognise Israel which would typically cut to advertisements when Israel performed in the contest; when it became apparent the Israel would win, the broadcast in many of these countries was cut short before the end of the voting. Many Arab states which are eligible to compete have been precluded from participating due to Israel’s presence, with Morocco the only Arab nation to have entered Eurovision, competing for the first, and as of 2021 the only time, in 1980 when Israel was absent. Israeli participation has also been criticised by those who oppose current government policies in the state, with calls for a boycott of the 2019 contest held in Tel Aviv by various political groups, including proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in response to the country’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as groups which opposed what some see as Israeli “pinkwashing”. Others campaigned against a boycott of the event, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.

“Political” and geographical voting.

800px-The_collusion_between_countries_in_Eurovision_1997_to_2017

Voting preferences between countries in Eurovision between 1997 and 2017

800px-Mutual_neglect_of_score_allocations_in_the_Eurovision_2010_to_2015

Mutual neglect of score allocations in Eurovision between 2010 and 2015. Produced using the methods presented in; a network of the significant score deviations can be viewed over a time period of interest.

The contest has been accused of what has been described as “political voting”: a perception that countries will give votes more frequently and in higher quantities to other countries based on political relationships, rather than the musical merits of the songs themselves. Numerous studies and academic papers have been written on the subject, which have corroborated evidence that certain countries tend to form “clusters” or “cliques” by frequently voting in the same way; one study concludes that voting blocs can play a crucial role in deciding the winner of the contest, with evidence that on at least two occasions bloc voting was a pivotal factor in the vote for the winning song. Other views on these “blocs” argue that certain countries will allocate disproportionately high points to others based on similar musical tastes, shared cultural links and a high degree of similarity and, in some cases, mutual intelligibility between languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate and vote for the competing songs from these countries based on these factors, rather than political relationships specifically. Analysis on other voting patterns have revealed examples in some countries which indicate voting preferences based on shared religion, as well as a so-called “patriotic vote”, particularly since the introduction of televoting in 1997, where large groups of foreign nationals in other countries are seen voting for their country of origin en masse.

Voting patterns in the contest have been reported by news publishers, including The Economist and BBC News. Criticism of the voting system was at its highest in the mid-2000s, and the apparent voting biases resulted in a number of calls for countries to boycott the contest, particularly following the 2007 contest where Eastern European countries occupied the top 15 places in the final and dominated the qualifying spaces. This apparent snub of the entries from more traditional Eurovision countries had even featured in debates in European national parliaments. The apparent political nature of the voting was cited as among the reasons for the resignation of Terry Wogan as commentator for the UK, a role he had performed at every contest from 1980.

With the introduction of a second semi-final in 2008 the EBU introduced a system which splits countries between the two semi-finals as a direct result of some of the aspects of bloc voting. Based on research into televoting patterns in previous contests, countries are placed into pots with other countries that share similar voting histories, and a random draw distributes the countries in each pot across the two semi-finals, meaning that countries which traditionally award points to each other are separated. The 2008 and 2009 contests also featured one of the qualifying countries in each semi-final being decided by the back-up juries, which in theory would be less susceptible to the kinds of bloc voting seen in the public vote. From 2009, juries of music professionals have been given a 50% stake in the result of each country’s vote, an initiative which has been welcomed by some as a means of diminishing the effects of voting patterns while maintaining involvement of the viewing public in the decision.

Political controversies in the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision Song Contest is an international song competition organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) which features participants representing primarily European countries. One of the stated aims of the contest is that the event is of a non-political nature, and participating broadcasters and performers are precluded from promoting or referring to anything of a political, commercial or similar nature during the contest. However several controversial moments have occurred since the event’s creation in 1956, which have included political tensions between competing countries being reflected in the contest’s performances and voting, disqualification of entries due to political references in song lyrics, and demonstrations against certain countries competing due to said country’s politics and policies.

• Armenia and Azerbaijan. The continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has affected the contest on numerous occasions since both countries begun competing in the late 2000s. In 2009 a number of people in Azerbaijan who voted for the Armenian entry were reportedly questioned by Azeri police. Armenia’s entry to the 2015 contest received a name change following claims that it contained a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, in contradition to the contest’s rules regarding political messaging in competing songs. Controversy erupted again in 2016 when Armenia’s Iveta Mukuchyan was shown waving the flag of the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway state internationally recognised as a part of Azerbaijan but largely inhabited by ethnic Armenians, at the contest’s first semi-final. This again contravened Eurovision rules on political gestures and resulted in disciplinary action being levied against Armenian broadcaster ARMTV.

Armenia–Azerbaijan relations in the Eurovision Song Contest. Armenia has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, a pan-European music competition, since 2006, while Azerbaijan has participated since 2008. The continuing conflict between the two countries over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is considered to be a de jure part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations, but has been under control of the Armenia-backed de facto Nagorno-Karabakh Republic since 1993, has affected the Eurovision Song Contest on several occasions.

Conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan first appeared in 2006, when Azerbaijani media criticized the event’s website for listing Nagorno-Karabakh as the birthplace of Armenia’s first representative, André, as it was part of the Azerbaijan SSR at the time. Conflicts notably escalated throughout the 2009 contest: during the semi-finals, Azerbaijani officials objected to the depiction of the Nagorno-Karabakh monument We Are Our Mountains during an introductory video for the Armenian entry. Armenia responded during the finals by displaying multiple images of the monument whilst presenting its results. Following the contest, allegations emerged that Azerbaijan’s state broadcaster had tampered with its feed of the broadcast to censor the Armenian entry, and that the Azerbaijani government was interrogating citizens who voted for Armenia, accusing them of being unpatriotic and a threat to security. Following an inquiry, Azerbaijan was fined by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) for breaching the privacy of voters.

Following the 2010 Junior Eurovision Song Contest, Armenian media claimed that Azerbaijan’s broadcaster had cut off the broadcast when it became apparent that Armenia had won; however, it was disputed whether the contest was even broadcast in Azerbaijan as they had not yet participated. Accordingly, as Azerbaijan prepared to host the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest following its victory in 2011, a group of Armenian musicians led a boycott effort, and the country would ultimately withdraw from the contest, causing the broadcaster to be fined for the late notice. Armenia returned in the 2013 edition, which was held in Sweden.

Conflicts between the two countries began to develop again during the lead-up to the 2015 contest, where allegations emerged that the Armenian entry, “Don’t Deny”, was a call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide (whose 100th anniversary was commemorated prior to the 2015 contest). As Azerbaijan denies the genocide, officials from the country issued a statement threatening Armenia for attempting to use Eurovision as an outlet for its “political ambitions”. The song was subsequently renamed “Face the Shadow” to address concerns over its alleged political themes. The following year, Armenian representative Iveta Mukuchyan was reprimanded by organizers for displaying the flag of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic during the first semi-final.

  • Initial appearances. In 2006—the first year in which Armenia participated, the official Eurovision website listed the birthplace of its performer André as being in the “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh”. Media outlets in Azerbaijan criticized the contest’s organizers for recognizing the republic, especially given that the region was an autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijan SSR when André was born in 1979. The birthplace listing on André’s profile was later removed entirely. Azerbaijan would make its own Eurovision debut in 2008—marking the first time both Armenia and Azerbaijan competed against each other at the contest. The Armenian entry, “Qélé, Qélé” by Sirusho, finished in 4th place, while Azerbaijan’s inaugural entry, “Day After Day”, finished 8th.
  • 2009 contest. Postcard controversy and aftermath. During the first semi-final of the 2009 contest, the “postcard” video introducing the performance of the Armenian entry “Jan Jan” depicted, amongst other monuments, We Are Our Mountains, an art piece located in Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital city of Stepanakert. Due to the country’s claims over the region, Azerbaijani officials objected to the portrayal of We Are Our Mountains as being an Armenian landmark. For the finals telecast, the video was edited to remove the statue. In protest of the decision, multiple photographs of We Are Our Mountains were displayed during the presentation of voting results from Armenia; one was displayed on a video screen at Yerevan’s Republic Square in the background, and another was displayed on the back of a clipboard that the Armenian voting presenter Sirusho was reading results from. Despite the controversy, 1,065 Armenians voted for the Azerbaijani entry, enough to give the country a single point. A total of 43 Azerbaijanis voted for the Armenian entry. Censorship, interrogation of voters. Following the contest, reports surfaced that the local Azerbaijani broadcaster, İctimai Television, had attempted to censor the Armenian performance from its broadcast of the final, and had obscured the voting number for the entry in an effort to discourage voting for it. İTV denied these claims, and provided footage showing that its broadcast was untampered with. In August 2009, a number of Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia’s entry during the contest were summoned for questioning at the Ministry of National Security in Baku, during which they were accused of being “unpatriotic” and “a potential security threat”. One of those summoned, Rovshan Nasirli (who had voted for “Jan Jan” because he felt it was a better reflection of Azerbaijani music than “Always”, the country’s actual entry) said that his interrogators told him that they had the names and addresses of all 43 Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia. Following these reports, Svante Stockselius, executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, announced the launch of an enquiry into the incidents. In their response, İctimai TV stated that while two individuals had been invited to the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry had given assurances that nobody had been questioned, either officially or unofficially, on voting in the competition itself. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Director General, Jean Réveillon, responded to this by saying that freedom to vote is one of the cornerstones of the contest and “Any breach of privacy regarding voting, or interrogation of individuals, is totally unacceptable”. Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, denied that anyone had been summoned to the Ministry of National Security about voting for the Armenian entry, and accused RFE/RL and other news outlets of reporting the allegations to create a scandal. The Reference Group of the EBU, which organizes Eurovision, examined the matter at a meeting in Oslo on 11 September 2009. In a statement issued on 17 September, the EBU acknowledged the allegations that Azerbaijani officials were interrogating voters and breaching their privacy. While the EBU would not impose sanctions on or ban Azerbaijan from future editions of the contest (the country could have been banned from the contest for three years), it fined the delegation €2,700, and changed its rules to make participating broadcasters liable for the “disclosure of information which could be used to identify voters” during future editions of the contest. Previously, telecommunications providers were liable, but the EBU could not impose sanctions on them.
  • 2010 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Vladimir Arzumanyan, a singer from Nagorno-Karabakh representing Armenia, won the 2010 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. It was alleged by Armenian media outlets that the broadcast of the contest in Azerbaijan was interrupted when it became apparent that Armenia had won. These claims were disputed by Armenia 1 director and Eurovision delegation leader Diana Mnatsakanyan, who also denied reports that the country was preparing to file a complaint with the EBU over the matter. She noted that the broadcaster did not know whether Azerbaijan even aired the contest at all, given that the country had not yet participated in the Junior Eurovision and had “no interest” in it at the time, and that reports about the alleged incident were limited to posts on Azerbaijani forums. Azerbaijan would ultimately make its official debut at the Junior Eurovision two years later.
  • 2012 contest. The 2012 Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by Baku, Azerbaijan after their win in 2011. Azerbaijan temporarily amended its visa policy to allow Armenians, who are normally barred from entering the country, to attend the event. However, in February 2012, a boycott effort emerged in Armenia following an incident where a 20-year-old Armenian soldier was shot dead on the border between the two countries. Armenian officials initially blamed the soldier’s death on an Azerbaijani sniper; however, conflicting reports indicated that the death was the result of friendly fire. Also in February, Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev made a statement re-affirming the country’s stance against Armenians, arguing that they control “hypocritical and corrupt politicians.” 22 Armenian musicians, including previous Armenian Eurovision representatives Emmy and Eva Rivas, signed an open letter supporting a boycott, stating that they would “refuse to appear in a country that is well-known for the mass killings and massacres of Armenians, in a country where anti-Armenian sentiments have been elevated to the level of state policy.” On 7 March 2012, Armenian officials announced that the country would withdraw from the 2012 contest. The EBU stated that it was “truly disappointed” with Armenia’s withdrawal, and that “despite the efforts of the EBU and the Host Broadcaster to ensure a smooth participation for the Armenian delegation in this year’s Contest, circumstances beyond our control lead to this unfortunate decision.” İTV General Director Ismayil Omarov expressed his regret about Armenia’s withdrawal, believing that the country’s presence could have been a “joint peace message to the world.” Local politician Ali Ahmadov also criticized the Armenian delegation for its decision, stating that “[its] refusal to take part in such a respected contest will cause even further damage to the already damaged image of Armenia.” Due to its late withdrawal, Armenia was required to pay its entry fee, plus a fine totalling half the value of the entry fee.
  • 2015 contest. Upon its unveiling in March 2015, media outlets characterized Armenia’s entry in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, “Don’t Deny”, as being in tribute to the Armenian Genocide, whose centenary was commemorated on 24 April 2015. The song was performed by Genealogy, a group whose composition alludes to the forget-me-not by consisting of five Armenian diaspora, along with a sixth singer representing Armenia and their unity. “Don’t Deny” was perceived by critics to be a call for recognition of the genocide, further noting that the song’s music video contained a scene depicting the group’s members posing for a family photo in World War I-era outfits, and then disappearing from sight. Gohar Gasparyan, head of Armenia’s Eurovision delegation, described the song as being about love and unity, and did not make reference to any specific political intent or themes. Representatives of Azerbaijan—which, alongside Turkey, denies the genocide—criticized the song for its alleged political themes, and stated that they would “act adequately” to prevent the contest from being “sacrificed to the political ambitions of a country.” On 16 March 2015, the Armenian delegation announced that the title of the entry had been changed to “Face the Shadow”; they stated that the new title was meant to “strengthen” the themes of the song, and to quell concerns over the alleged political subtext. The delegation continued to deny any specific political subtext in the song.
  • 2016 contest. Despite the EBU allowing only the flags of full UN member states to be displayed at the 2016 contest, during the first semi-final on 10 May 2016, the Armenian representative Iveta Mukuchyan was seen holding the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking backlash from the Azerbaijani press. During a press conference following the semi-final, Mukuchyan responded to the incident by stating that “You don’t have to forget that I am representing my country in my heart, my thoughts, my feelings, and all my emotions. My thoughts are with my motherland, and what I want to spread is peace on borders. I wrote ‘LoveWave‘ because this was going on inside of me.” The EBU and the reference group released a statement the following day explaining that they “strongly condemn the brandishing of the Nagorno-Karabakh flag” during the live transmission of the first semi final, and consider the appearance “harmful” to the contest brand. The reference group has consequently sanctioned the Armenian broadcaster AMPTV, with the nature of the sanction to be determined citing a breach of the rule stating “no messages promoting any organisation, institution, political cause or other causes shall be allowed in the shows”. Furthermore, the reference group has pointed out that a further breach of the rules of the contest could lead to disqualification from the year’s event or any successive editions. Hikmet Hajiyev, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Azerbaijan called the action of Mukuchyan “provocative” and unacceptable claiming that “the Armenian side deliberately resorts to such steps to encourage and promote the illegal formation created in the occupied Azerbaijani territories”.
  • 2019 contest. After the final in 2019, İctimai TV, the Azerbaijani public broadcaster filed a complaint with the EBU for the graphics shown during the voting sequence. It did not include Nagorno-Karabakh on Azerbaijan’s map when shown during the broadcast.
  • Voting history. Despite hugely hostile relations between the two nations over the years, points have still been exchanged. The tables below show the points awarded between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the latter debuted in Eurovision Song Contest 2008.
     Armenia →  Azerbaijan
    Points Total Years
    12 points 0
    10 points 0
    8 points 0
    7 points 0
    6 points 0
    5 points 0
    4 points 0
    3 points 0
    2 points 1 2008(SF)
    1 point 1

    2009(F)

     Azerbaijan →  Armenia
    Azerbaijan has never given Armenia any points. Every juror that the Azeri delegation has deployed to the contest has ranked Armenia last. In the televote, Armenia has been ranked last on nearly every occasion, other than in 2016 – Armenian representative Iveta Mukuchyan ranked 14th in a field of 17 during the semi-final.
    Key
    • SF: – Semi-final
    • F: – Final
    • T: – Televote
    • J: – Jury vote

• Russia and Ukraine. Interactions between Russia and Ukraine in the contest had originally been positive in the first years of co-competition, however as political relations soured between the two countries following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the prolonged conflict in Eastern Ukraine, so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. In 2016, Ukraine’s Jamala won the contest with the song “1944”, whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Given the recent events in Crimea, many saw this song as a political statement against Russia’s actions, however the song was permitted to compete given the perceived historical nature of the song despite protests from the Russia delegation. Calls for a Russian boycott of the 2017 contest in Ukraine were dismissed, however their selected representative for the contest in Kyiv, Yuliya Samoylova, was subsequently banned from entering Ukraine due to having performed in Crimea in 2015 and entering the region illegally according to Ukrainian law, by entering the region directly from Russia rather than going through Ukraine. Offers for Samoylova to compete remotely from a venue in Russia or for a change of artist were rejected by Russia’s Channel One, with Russia eventually pulling out of the contest and the EBU reprimanding Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC and threatening to exclude Ukraine from future contests.

Russia–Ukraine relations in the Eurovision Song Contest. Russia has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, a pan-European music competition, since 1994, while Ukraine has participated since 2003. Russia and Ukraine have had positive relations, and have exchanged the top-3 points with each other several times over the years. Barring a minor dispute over Ukraine’s 2007 entry “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” (whose title was alleged to be a mondegreen of “Russia goodbye”, but was defended by its performer as being meaningless), notable conflicts began to emerge between the two countries at Eurovision in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In 2016, Ukraine’s entry was “1944”, a song by Jamala that was inspired by her great-grandmother’s experiences during the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union. The song was criticised by Russian officials, who argued that it violated Eurovision rules against political content due to its allusions to the Crimean crisis. “1944” would ultimately win the contest. While there were calls for Russia to boycott the Ukraine-hosted 2017 contest over the ongoing conflicts in Eastern Ukraine, Russia did unveil an entrant—Yuliya Samoylova.

However, after she was unveiled, it was reported that Samoylova had been banned from entering Ukraine for three years for violating a Ukrainian ban on direct travel to Crimea from Russia. The EBU attempted to reconcile the issues so that Samoylova could perform, calling upon the Ukrainian government to remove or defer her travel ban for the contest, and offering Russia the opportunity to perform their song from a remote venue. However, Russia’s delegate broadcaster, Channel One Russia, passed on the offer, wanting to have Samoylova perform in Kiev as with all other entrants. On 13 April 2017, Channel One announced that it would not broadcast the contest, effectively withdrawing.

Prior to the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, a city with large communities from Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine retracted its entry, Maruv, who had been prominently Russian based, after she refused to sign a contract, having been questioned on her views on Crimea by Jamala, one of the judges of the selection process; this caused Ukraine to withdraw from the contest for the first time since 2015.

  • 2007 contest. Verka Serduchka was chosen to represent Ukraine at the 2007 Contest with the song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. However, it was alleged that the song had contained political subtext, including a reference in its lyrics to “Maidan” (the site of the Orange Revolution demonstrations), and that the phrase “Lasha Tumbai” was a mondegreen of “Russia goodbye”. Serduchka denied these allegations, claiming that the phrase “lasha tumbai” was Mongolian for “churned butter”. On the Russian talk show Пусть говорят, which aired on Channel One Russia just after the final of the contest, a native Mongolian speaker explained that the phrase “Lasha Tumbai” does not exist in the Mongolian language. Serduchka later stated that “Lasha Tumbai” was a meaningless phrase meant to rhyme with other lyrics.
  • 2016 contest. Jamala, who represented Ukraine at the 2016, won with the song “1944”. The lyrics for her song concern the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, in the 1940s, by the Soviet Union at the hands of Joseph Stalin because of their alleged collaboration with the Nazis. Jamala explained that the lyrics were inspired by the story of her great-grandmother Nazylkhan, who was in her mid-20s when she and her five children were deported to barren Central Asia. One of the daughters did not survive the journey. Eurovision’s official rules state that “no lyrics, speeches, gestures of political or similar nature shall be permitted,” so Jamala repeatedly stated that her song was not referencing the 2014 annexation of Crimea, but her own personal family history. She stated, “I needed that song to free myself, to release the memory of my great-grandmother, the memory of that girl who has no grave.” However, at the same time she did reference the current state of Crimea post-annexation, saying “Of course [the song is] about 2014 as well.” “Now the Crimean Tatars are on occupied territory and it is very hard for them. They are under tremendous pressure. Some have disappeared without a trace. And that is terrifying. I would not want to see history repeat itself.” Russian officials, including multiple MPs and Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were clearly unhappy with the decision and said the song was a political statement and an allusion on the 2014 annexation of Crimea, forbidden by the rules of the contest. Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post that the next Eurovision winner might as well be about the conflict in Syria, proposing the lyrics: “Assad blood, Assad worst. Give me prize, that we can host.” Other officials suggested boycotting the 2017 contest, with Franz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security stating, “It was not the Ukrainian singer Jamala and her song 1944 that won Eurovision 2016, it was politics that beat art. If nothing changes in Ukraine by next year, then I don’t think we need to take part.”  Despite this, Russia’s entrant Sergey Lazarev, who placed third in the competition, congratulated Jamala on her win.
  • 2017 contest. The Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which began in late February 2014, prompted a number of governments to apply sanctions against individuals, businesses and officials from Russia. In 2015, the Ukrainian government began to blacklist people who supported the 2014 annexation of the Crimea by Russia, from entering the country. Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko stated that the country would not lift this ban for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) iterated that their goal was for Eurovision to remain inclusive, and that they were “engaging in constructive dialogue with the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (NTKU) and the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all delegates and artists can come and stay in Ukraine”. A representative of the host broadcaster told Billboard that the blacklist rules were beyond their control. On 3 March 2017, Russian politician Vitaly Milonov called upon the country to withdraw from the 2017 contest amid fears of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. He described Russia as being “unwelcome guests in a country seized by fanatics”.
  • Russian selection, travel ban. It was reported on 13 March 2017 that Ukraine was investigating Yuliya Samoylova, Russia’s entrant at the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, for having violated a ban on direct travel to Crimea from Russia; she had visited Kerch in 2015 to give a performance. Ukrainian officials have speculated that Russia’s choice of Samoylova may have been a deliberate political statement, having knowingly picked a singer who had performed in the disputed territory in order to instigate a political controversy; interior minister adviser Anton Gerashchenko stated that he could not “exclude that actions could be taken by our side to deny her entry” if Russia was using the entry as a “provocation”, while the deputy director of ATR, a Ukrainian television broadcaster that serves the Crimean Tatar population, argued that it was a “cynical and immoral move”. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin stated that he considers the choice of Yulia Samoilova as the Eurovision participant is most likely to be a provocation from Russia. Later the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko stated the same. Ben Royston, who had advised past Eurovision delegations in Azerbaijan and Sweden, argued that Russia’s choice of a performer with a disability may have also been deliberate, explaining to The Guardian that “[Russia] chose a wheelchair-bound contestant who had made pro-Russian statements about Crimea on social media. She was never going to be allowed in Ukraine, but they chose her anyway. And now Russia are very publicly saying: ‘How can Ukraine let this poor sweet girl in a wheelchair be the victim of your laws?’ It seems clearly all part of the Russia PR machine.” Russia has denied that their choice of performer was meant to be a political statement, and stated that their choice of a performer with a disability was meant to be an expression of diversity. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) confirmed on 22 March 2017 that Samoylova had been banned from entering Ukraine for three years for illegally travelling to Crimea from Russia, thus violating article 204-2 of Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses. The EBU responded by stating that it was continuing to ensure that all entrants would be able to perform in Kiev, but that “we are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the contest and the notion of inclusiveness that lies at the heart of its values”, and also stated that EBU will respect the laws of hosting country. Frants Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defence and Security, threatened that Russia would boycott Eurovision unless its organisers declared the government decision to be “unacceptable”. He also accused them of being “completely politicised and biased”.
  • Attempts to reconcile. The EBU offered a compromise to Channel One Russia on 23 March 2017, in which Samoylova would be allowed to perform remotely from a venue of the broadcaster’s choice; it would have been the first time that a Eurovision entry had been performed from an outside venue via satellite. However, Channel One declined the offer, arguing that Samoylova should be allowed to perform on-stage in Kiev as with every other entrant, and accusing Ukraine of violating assurances in the Eurovision rules that all performers would be issued the appropriate visas so they could enter the host country.[citation needed] Vice Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko had stated that it is illegal for persona non grata to participate in tours or television programmes. Jon Ola Sand, executive supervisor of Eurovision, stated in an interview with Denmark’s national broadcaster DR, that he and other members of the European Broadcasting Union had contacted the Ukrainian Security Services about the possibilities of delaying the imposed ban until after the 2017 contest had concluded. EBU general director Ingrid Deltenre stated that Ukraine’s behaviour was “absolutely unacceptable”, and abused the Eurovision Song Contest ethos for “political action”. Deltenre further went on to say that the EBU were in talks with Ukrainian prime minister Volodymyr Groysman and president Petro Poroshenko, in regards to delaying the ban until after the contest. On 1 April 2017, Deltenre threatened to ban Ukraine from future competitions if Samoylova is not allowed to participate. In response to this UA:PBC urged the EBU to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.
  • Withdrawal. In an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published on 26 March 2017, Eurovision Reference Group chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling noted that Russia’s participation in the contest seemed to be unclear, acknowledging that Samoylova had not participated in mandatory previewing sessions prior to the ban, nor had the Russian delegation reserved any accommodations in Kiev for the contest. He suggested that Russia may have been aware that their selection would be problematic. On 13 April 2017, Channel One announced that it would not broadcast the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. The EBU considered the decision to be an official withdrawal from the contest.
  • Reactions from other EBU members. San Marino – Carlo Romeo, Director General of the Sanmarinese national broadcaster San Marino RTV (SMRTV), reacted to the decision to ban Samoylova as unacceptable behaviour, that the broadcaster does not care about conspiracy or provocation towards the Russian entrant, and that the song contest is about being on “neutral ground”; Denmark – Jan Lagermand Lundme, Head of Entertainment of the Danish national broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR), stated in an interview on 25 March 2017 that the 2017 contest has become a “political battleground”, and was fairly satisfied with the work the EBU was carrying out in order to resolve the issue on the ban imposed by Ukraine; Germany – Head of Entertainment for the German broadcaster ARD, Thomas Schreiber, reacted to the situation during an interview with Deutsche Welle. Schreiber stated that the situation between Russia and Ukraine was of a critical nature, and that he felt that both the Russian broadcaster and the Ukrainian authorities were to blame and that the resolution was dependent on the goodwill of both parties; Serbia – Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) stated in 14 April 2017 that they regret the situation and believed that Eurovision should be a place of unity of the nations, and not to divide them. RTS went on to mention about a similar period of difficulty they endured, when they were expelled from the organisation between 1992 and 2004 for political reasons.
  • 2019 contest. Controversy emerged during the Ukrainian national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 regarding contestants’ ties to Russia. During the final of the competition on 23 February 2019, jury members Jamala, Andriy Danylko, and Yevhen Filatov interrogated several of the contestants regarding their thoughts on Russia, focusing mainly on Maruv and Anna Maria. Jamala asked Maruv whether Maruv believed Crimea was Ukrainian territory, to which Maruv agreed. Anna Maria were asked, if they had to choose between the two, would they choose their country of Ukraine or their mother, who worked for the Russian-led government of Crimea. During the final, it was announced by the Ukrainian broadcaster, UA:PBC, that the broadcaster had reserved the right to change the decision made by the jury and Ukrainian public. After Maruv was declared the winner of the competition, it was confirmed she was not yet confirmed as the Ukrainian representative, and discussions would take place between Maruv and the Ukrainian broadcaster. It emerged that Maruv’s representative was sent a contract which she had a 48 hour deadline to sign in order to represent Ukraine. A major feature of the contract was that she must cancel all upcoming performances and appearances in Russia within 24 hours. Maruv later revealed that the broadcaster’s contract had additionally banned her from improvising on stage and communicating with any journalist without the permission of the broadcaster, and required her to fully comply with any requests from the broadcaster. If she were to not follow any of these clauses, she would be fined ₴2 million (~€67,000). Maruv also stated that the broadcaster would not give her any financial compensation for the competition and would not pay for the trip to Tel Aviv. On 25 February, both Maruv and the broadcaster confirmed that she would not represent Ukraine in Israel due to disputes over the contract, and that another act would be chosen. Viktor Taran, a board member for UA:PBC, later revealed that Maruv refused to cancel her concerts in Russia which led to her refusal to sign the contract. Taran also alleged that Maruv and her lawyers did not believe she was responsible for representing the views of the Ukrainian government while at the Eurovision Song Contest. National final runner-up Freedom Jazz announced on 26 February that they had rejected the broadcaster’s offer to represent Ukraine as well, with third place finisher Kazka confirming they had also rejected the offer the following day. On 27 February, UA:PBC confirmed that Ukraine would withdraw from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest following the controversy. In their withdrawal statement, the broadcaster stated that the national selection “has drawn attention to a systemic problem with the music industry in Ukraine – the connection of artists with an aggressor state”.
  • Voting history. Despite there being unstable relations between the two nations over the years, both have still exchanged points with each other. The tables below show the points awarded between Russia and Ukraine since the latter debuted in Eurovision Song Contest 2003.
Key
  • SF: – Semi-final
  • F: – Final
  • T: – Televote
  • J: – Jury vote

• Georgian withdrawal in 2009. Georgia’s planned entry for the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia also caused controversy: in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War in 2009, Stephane & 3G were selected to compete with the song “We Don’t Wanna Put In”, however the EBU objected to the lyrics as they appeared to criticise Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Requests by the contest’s organisers for the lyrics of the song to be changed were refused by the group, and Georgian broadcaster GPB subsequenty withdrew from the event. A number of boycotts of the same event were considered by the Baltic states over Russia’s actions in Georgia, however none eventually occurred, with Estonian broadcaster ERR hosting a poll on its website to gauge public opinion on competing in Russia.

Georgia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009.

  • Withdrawal and return. Georgia’s broadcaster, Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB), originally announced in August 2008 that they would not be participating at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 due to the 2008 South Ossetia war, involving Georgia and Eurovision 2009 host Russia, and in protest to Russia’s foreign policies. GPB went on to say that they refuse to “participate in a contest organised by a country that violates human rights and international laws”. GPB later reversed their decision to boycott the contest in December 2008. This was after talks between GPB and the contest organisers, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), as well as the victory for Georgia at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008, in which Russia gave their top marks to Georgia. In February 2009, an online campaign “Boycott MoscowVision” emerged calling on the public broadcaster not to participate in the contest.
  • Song controversy and withdrawal. Shortly after “We Don’t Wanna Put In” was selected, the song received widespread coverage due to political connotations in its lyrics. The song, a jab at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, gained news coverage in countries around Europe, however the song was rumoured to be ineligible to compete, due to rules forbidding “lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature”. A spokesperson for GPB denied that the song was of a political nature, and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organisers of the contest, refused to make a statement until the song was officially submitted to them. A protest was held in Moscow over the song on 2 March 2009, organised by the Young Russia political group. On 10 March, the EBU told GPB that the song’s lyrics did not comply with the rules of the contest, and asked them to either re-write the lyrics of the song, or select another to compete. On 11 March, GPB announced that it would not change the lyrics of the song, or the song itself, saying that it does not have political connotations within its lyrics, and perceiving the EBU’s rejection of the song as political pressure from Russia. The country therefore withdrew from the contest. Confirmation of the withdrawal given, when the running order was announced on 16 March, and Georgia was not included. Georgia was to compete in the first semi-final on 12 May 2009. Following that dispute, GPB did not even broadcast the 2009 contest, but Georgia returned to the 2010 contest, which was won by Germany.

• Israeli participation. Israel first competed in the contest in 1973, becoming the first Middle Eastern country and the first country from outside of Europe to enter. Its participation in the contest over the years has been at times controversial, but it has remained a regular competitor in the contest and been crowned the winner on four occasions. The country’s first appearance was marked by an increased security presence at the contest venue in Luxembourg City than what would have been considered normal in the early 1970s, coming less than a year after the Munich massacre where 11 members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team were killed by Palestinian terrorists. Armed guards were stationed at the venue, and the audience in attendance were warned not to stand during the show at the risk of being shot.

The contest was regularly broadcast in the Arab world during the 1970s, however as many of these countries did not recognise Israel, their broadcasters typically cut to advertisements when Israel performed. When in 1978 it became apparent that Israel was on course to win the contest, the broadcast in many of these countries was cut short before the end of the voting, with Jordanian broadcaster JRTV explaining the end of their transmission as due to “technical difficulties” and concluding its transmission with an image of a bunch of daffodils; Jordanian media later announced that Belgium, the eventual runner-up, had won instead.

Israel’s participation in the contest means that many Arab states that are eligible to participate in the contest choose not to do so, however a number of attempts have been made by some of the countries to enter. Tunisia had applied to take part in the 1977 contest, and had been drawn to perform 4th on stage, but later withdrew. Morocco competed for the first, and as of 2021 the only time, in 1980 when Israel had withdrawn from the contest due to it being held on the same night as Yom HaZikaron. [a – The night of the 1980 contest, 19 April 1980, was the start of Yom HaZikaron, the memorial day for fallen soldiers of Israel. Contrary to claims by some sources, it was not Holocaust Memorial Day, or Yom Hashoah, which fell on 13–14 April that year.] Most recently, Lebanon had signed up to compete in the 2005 contest, and had selected “Quand tout s’enfuit” as its debut entry, to be performed by Aline Lahoud. After being told by the EBU that they would have to broadcast the entire programme in full, including the Israeli entry, Télé Liban responded that they could not guarantee this as it would be incompatible with Lebanese law. The broadcaster therefore withdrew their entry, resulting in sanctions from the EBU due to the late withdrawal.

Israel has hosted the contest on three occasions, and due to the preparations and rehearsals which accompany the contest, and the Saturday evening timeslot for the grand final, objections from Orthodox religious leaders in the country regarding the potential interruption to the Sabbath have been raised on all three occasions. In 1979 these objections were largely ignored and preparations for the contest were held mostly unchanged from standard, however Turkey was pressured into withdrawing from the contest by Arab states who objected to a predominantly Muslim country taking part in Israel. Objections were again raised in 1999 with regards to the contest being held around the Sabbath, as well as criticism levelled against Dana International, the contest’s first trans winner, leading to an attempt to stop the contest being held in Israel at all. However all of these criticisms were in vain and the contest went ahead as planned in Jerusalem.

Most recently, in 2019, a number of controversial incidents occurred in the run-up to that year’s contest in Tel Aviv. Requests were once again received from Orthodox leaders that the contest not interfere with the Sabbath, with a letter penned by Yaakov Litzman, leader of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, to several government departments demanding that the contest not violate the holy day. Shalva Band, one of the competing entries in the country’s national selection for that year’s contest, ultimately withdrew from contention when told that, should they win, they would be required to perform in rehearsals on the Sabbath; the group ultimately performed as an interval act during the contest’s second semi-final. The 2019 contest in Israel also saw calls from a number of different groups for a boycott of the event, which included proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in response to the country’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in opposition to what some see as Israeli “pinkwashing”. However many others also campaigned against a boycott of the event, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.

Arab reaction to Israeli participation. In 1978, during the performance of the Israeli entry, the Jordanian broadcaster JRTV suspended the broadcast, and instead showed pictures of flowers. When it became apparent during the later stages of the voting sequence that Israel was going to win the contest, JRTV abruptly ended the transmission. Afterwards, the Jordanian news media refused to acknowledge the fact that Israel had won, and announced that the winner was Belgium (which had actually come in second). By coincidence, Israel did not broadcast the victory either, as the IBA did not buy enough broadcasting time. The victory was broadcast the next day.

At the time, Israeli Television was in its infancy and broadcasting in black & white. Many/most Israelis therefore watched international events in colour, using the signal from neighbouring Jordan. As Jordan did not broadcast the Israeli entry and the IBA did not broadcast the results part of the event, the win only became known as a result of radio broadcasts.

Because of Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, many Arab states that are eligible to participate do not do so. Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon are cases in point. Tunisia was about to participate in 1977, but decided not to do so in the end; Lebanon was just about to participate in 2005 when it withdrew (incurring a fine by the EBU) because Lebanese law does not allow recognition of Israel, and consequently Lebanese television would not transmit any Israeli material – which would have been a violation of the EBU’s rules.

LGBT visibility. The contest has had a long-held fan base in the LGBT community, and Eurovision organisers have actively worked to include these fans in the contest since the 1990s. Paul Oscar became the contest’s first openly gay artist when he represented Iceland at the 1997 contest, and Israel’s Dana International, the contest’s first trans performer, became the first LGBT+ artist to win the contest in 1998. Several open members of the LGBT+ community have since gone on to compete and win the contest: Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of openly gay Thomas Neuwirth, won the 2014 contest for Austria; and openly bisexual performer Duncan Laurence was the winner of the 2019 contest for the Netherlands. Marija Šerifović, who won the 2007 contest for Serbia, subsequently came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013. Past competing songs and performances have included references and allusions to same-sex relationships; “Nous les amoureux”, the 1961 winning song, contained references to the difficulties faced by a homosexual relationship; Krista Siegfrids’ performance of “Marry Me” at the 2013 contest featured a same-sex kiss with one of her female backing dancers; and the stage show of Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s “Together” in 2018 featured two male dancers portraying a same-sex relationship. Several drag performances have featured in Eurovision performances, including Wurst, Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka, Denmark’s DQ and Slovenia’s Sestre.

In more recent years, various political ideologies across Europe have clashed in the Eurovision setting, particularly on LGBT rights. Dana International’s selection for the 1998 contest in Birmingham was marked by objections and death threats from orthodox religious sections of Israeli society, and at the contest her accommodation was reportedly in the only hotel in Birmingham with bulletproof windows. Turkey, once a regular participant in the contest and a one-time winner, first pulled out of the contest in 2013, citing dissatisfaction in the voting rules but more recently Turkish broadcaster TRT have cited LGBT performances as another reason for their continued boycott, refusing to broadcast the 2013 event over Finland’s same sex kiss. LGBT visibility in the contest has also been cited as a deciding factor for Hungary’s non-participating in 2020, although no official reason was given by the Hungarian broadcaster MTVA. The rise of anti-LGBT sentiment in Europe has lead to a marked increase in booing from contest audiences, particularly since the introduction of a “gay propaganda” law in Russia in 2013. Conchita Wurst’s win in the contest was also met with criticism on the Russian political stage, with several conservative politicians voicing displeasure in the result. Clashes on LGBT visibility in the contest have also occurred in countries which do not compete in the contest, such as in China, where broadcasting rights to the contest were terminated during the 2018 contest due to censorship of “abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours” that went against Chinese broadcasting guidelines.

LGBT visibility in the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision Song Contest has had a long-held fan base in the LGBT community, and Eurovision organisers have actively worked to include these fans in the contest since the 1990s.

  • LGBT participants. Paul Oscar became the contest’s first openly gay artist when he represented Iceland at the 1997 contest, and Israel’s Dana International, the contest’s first trans performer, became the first LGBT+ artist to win the contest in 1998. Several open members of the LGBT+ community have since gone on to compete and win the contest: Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of openly gay Thomas Neuwirth, won the 2014 contest for Austria; and openly bisexual performer Duncan Laurence was the winner of the 2019 contest for the Netherlands. Marija Šerifović, who won the 2007 contest for Serbia, subsequently came out publicly as a lesbian in 2013.
  • LGBT themes in competing acts. Past competing songs and performances have included references and allusions to same-sex relationships. One of the contest’s earliest winning songs, Luxembourg’s 1961 winner “Nous les amoureux”, was confirmed by its performer Jean-Claude Pascal as containing references to a homosexual relationship and the difficulties faced by the pair, considered controversial during the early 1960s when in many European countries homosexual relations were still criminalised. Krista Siegfrids’ performance of “Marry Me” at the 2013 contest featured a same-sex kiss with one of her female backing dancers, and Ireland’s stage show of Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s “Together” in 2018 featured two male dancers portraying a same-sex relationship. Several drag performances have featured in Eurovision performances, including Austria’s Conchita Wurst, Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka, Denmark’s DQ and Slovenia’s Sestre; the latter’s selection sparked protests and debate on LGBT rights in Slovenia at the time and resulted in concerns raised at the European Parliament ahead of Slovenia’s upcoming accession to the European Union.
  • Criticism of LGBT visibility. Dana International’s selection for the 1998 contest in Birmingham was marked by objections and death threats from orthodox religious sections of Israeli society, and at the contest her accommodation was reportedly in the only hotel in Birmingham with bulletproof windows. In more recent years, various political ideologies across Europe have clashed in the Eurovision setting, particularly on LGBT rights. Turkey, once a regular participant in the contest and a one-time winner, first pulled out of the contest in 2013, citing dissatisfaction in the voting rules; more recently when asked about returning to the contest Turkish broadcaster TRT have cited LGBT performances as another reason for their continued boycott. After initially planning on airing the 2013 contest, TRT eventually pulled its broadcast of the event in response to Krista Siegfrids’s same-sex kiss. It has also been reported that LGBT visibility in the contest was also a deciding factor when Hungary chose not to enter the 2020 contest amid a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán, although no official reason has been given by the Hungarian broadcaster MTVA. Following the introduction of a “gay propaganda” law in Russia in 2013, as well as developments in Ukraine, the 2014 contest saw a marked increase in booing from the audience, particularly during the Russian performance and during the voting when Russia received points. Conchita Wurst’s win in the contest was also met with criticism on the Russian political stage, with several conservative politicians voicing displeasure in the result. In response to the booing, the producers of the 2015 contest installed “anti-booing technology” for the broadcast, and the contest’s presenters repeatedly called on the audience not to boo; the Russian participant, Polina Gagarina, was interviewed by Conchita in the green room during a break in the voting, and attracted criticism from Russian conservatives when she posted a backstage video to social media of herself hugging Conchita. Clashes on LGBT visibility in the contest have also occurred in countries which do not compete in the contest. Eurovision had been broadcast in China for several years, however in 2018, the rights held by Mango TV were terminated during the 2018 contest. The live broadcast of the first semi-final featured censorship by Mango TV of Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy, whose performance reportedly went against Chinese guidelines that prohibit “abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours” due to the same-sex dancing, as well as Albania’s Eugent Bushpepa due to the open display of tattoos, which broke guidelines around the featuring so-called “sub-cultures” and “dispirited cultures”. As a result of the termination, the Chinese broadcaster was unable to broadcast the second semi-final or the grand final of the 2018 contest or any future contests.

Cultural influenc. The Eurovision Song Contest has amassed a global following and sees annual audience figures of between 100 million and 600 million. The contest has become a cultural influence worldwide since its first years, is regularly described as having kitsch appeal, and has featured as a topic of parody in television sketches and in stage performances that have featured at the Edinburgh Fringe and Melbourne Comedy festivals among others. Several films have also been created which celebrate the contest, including Eytan Fox’s 2013 Israeli comedy Cupcakes [he], and the Netflix 2020 musical comedy, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, produced with backing from the contest organisers and starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.

The contest has a large online following and multiple independent websites, news blogs and fan clubs are dedicated to the contest. One of the oldest and largest Eurovision fan clubs is OGAE, founded in 1984 in Finland and currently a network of over 40 national branches across the world. National branches regularly host events to promote and celebrate Eurovision, and several participating broadcasters work closely with these branches when preparing their entries.

In the run-up to each year’s contest, several countries regularly host smaller events between the conclusion of the national selection shows in March and the contest proper in May. These events typically feature the artists which will go on to compete at that year’s contest, and consist of performances at a venue and “meet and greets” with fans and the press. “Eurovision in Concert”, held annually in Amsterdam, was one of the first of these events to be created, holding its first event in 2008. Other events held regularly include the “London Eurovision Party”, the “ESPreParty” in Madrid, and the “Eurovision PreParty” in Riga. Community events have also been held virtually, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. #EurovisionAgain, an initiative where fans watched old contests in sync via YouTube and contributed to discussions via Twitter started during the first COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequently became a top trend on Twitter across Europe, soon catching the attention of Eurovision organisers who began to broadcast the contests through their official YouTube channel. Through the EBU, the initiative was able to secure the rights to show several older editions of the contest for the first time on their YouTube channel, and over £20,000 was raised for UK based LGBTQ+ charities during the initial run of the event.

Running order of the participating songs. From 2013 onwards, the final and the semi-finals running order of the competing performances at the semi-finals and the final has been decided by the show’s producers and then approved by the EBU Executive Supervisor and the Reference Group. An “allocation draw” occurs for the final and the semi-finals with each nation drawing to perform in the first or second half. Prior to 2013, the order was decided at random (though when the host nation performs is still decided at random, to ensure fairness). There is some statistical evidence that the contest’s results were positively related to the running number in 2009–2012. The change in procedure was aimed to make the show more exciting and ensure that all contestants had a chance to stand out, preventing entries that are too similar from cancelling each other out. The decision elicited mixed reactions from both fans and participating broadcasters. Some fans have alleged that there is a risk of corruption and that the order can be manipulated to benefit certain countries, since the running order is considered to be of importance to the result. As of the 2019 contest, the only regularly contested positions in the running order that have never won the contest are numbers 2 and 16, with position number 21 winning for the first time in 2016. Position 17 has the most victories, with 7. Positions 25, 26 and 27 have not won either, but there have been very few finals with that many participants.