In its press release, the EBU goes into detail around the cancellation of the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest:
It is with deep regret that we have to announce the cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 in Rotterdam.
Over the past few weeks we have explored many alternative options to allow the Eurovision Song Contest to go ahead.
However the uncertainty created by the spread of COVID-19 throughout Europe – and the restrictions put in place by the governments of the participating broadcasters and the Dutch authorities – means the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has taken the difficult decision that it is impossible to continue with the live event as planned.
There are a number of questions resulting from the cancellation. Not all of them can be answered immediately, but the team at Eurovision.tv has started an FAQ, which you can read here. It talks about the alternatives that were considered for staging the Song Contest in 2020, what happens to the songs selected for this year’s Contest, and what happens to the tickets purchased.
These are unprecedented times in the world, and the fight against COVID-19 is affecting society at every level. Although the Eurovision Song Contest may be cancelled, its spirt of co-operation and togetherness are more relevant than ever.
And it’s okay to grieve. You’re not alone, we’re in this together.
Sadly, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been cancelled totally. Rotterdam will be ready to host the contest in 2021 contest. Most of Europe is currently closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Within the past week in particular, most countries have taken heavy methods in use to try to stop the coronavirus’ Covid-19 disease from spreading too much. Everyone wants to avoid the scenes currently taking place at hospitals in Italy where doctors each day needs to make the tough choice; who do we try to save and who do we let die?
In order to avoid such a situation most countries closed down schools and universities, public offices, theatres, restaurants, bar, clinics, shops etc . All over Europe people are asked to work from home, avoid going out and basically isolate themselves. Many countries even closed their borders to avoid further spread.
This decision was unavoidable
– Shula Rijxman, NPO Chief executive officer
Today came what we have all been waiting for: A decision from the European Broadcasting Union regarding the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. With many artists not being able to travel to the Netherlands and with clear restrictions on not to gather too many people at the same time, this year’s contest obviously couldn’t take place as planned.
We understand that people will be disappointed, but we need to put things into perspective. At the same time we understand that this decision and it’s consequences pale in comparison to the challenge people face in relation to this corona virus.
– Sietse Bakker, Executive Supervisor Event
And from Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor, the following words came:
We are very proud of the Eurovision Song Contest, that for 64 years has united people all around Europe. And we are deeply disappointed about this situation. The EBU, together with the Host Broadcaster NPO, NOS, AVROTROS and the City of Rotterdam will continue to talk to see if it’s possible to stage the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam in 2021. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the process of staging a great Eurovision Song Contest this year. Unfortunately, that was not possible due to factors beyond our control. We regret this situation very much, but I can promise you: the Eurovision Song Contest will come back stronger than ever.
It is not not yet clear when the next Eurovision Song Contest will be held. According to EBU, the city of Rotterdam and the broadcasters the most obvious decision would be to host the 65th edition of Europe’s favourite TV show another time in Rotterdam. The city is ready to take on this role in 2021.
The already sold tickets will, at least for now, remain where they are – with the people who have purchased them. Further decision about refund options and validity will be taken at a later point. It seems implied that tickets that were to be valid for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest will still be valid next year.
Nothing is decided yet about what happens to the songs and artists that have been selected. In a TV interview, Sietse Bakker stated that he hopes the Reference Group will make a decision that does them and the efforts put into preparing their performance justice.
Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and Preview parties
The first clear indication from just how this Covid-19 disease would affect the 2020 contest came from Denmark. The day before the Danish final were to take place, their Prime Minister advised against events with larger crowds taking place. Danish broadcaster DR reacted immediately. 10.000 tickets were cancelled and the show held in a big empty arena without audience.
Afterwards the popular preview parties scheduled to take place in late March and early April cancelled one by one. First Spain and Israel, and latest the longest standing Eurovision in Concert in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Shortly after, London Eurovision Party was cancelled too.
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41 songs selected for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. All artists were busy preparing their stage presentations when Coronavirus basically shut down all of Europe with the European Broadcasting Union cancelling the show. But what about the songs?
A lot of questions were answered when EBU decided to cancel this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. It ended all speculations about whether or not it should be postponed or have all artists perform in each their own country. Unfortunately a lot of new questions were raised too. The most important of them being: What will happen to the 41 songs selected for the 2020 contest?
In the F.A.Q that followed the cancellation, the question was answered like this: “This is to be discussed with the Reference Group and the participating broadcasters and a decision will be communicated later”.
With that, it’s still unknown what will happen. Several scenarios are in play. According to the rules, no songs must be publicly available before the 1st of September in the year before the contest they take part in. Rules can of course be changed, which will allow the songs selected this year to be used next year. But if that happens, should it be mandatory that all countries stick to the same song or should it be an option to do so?
If it’s possible to use the same songs, will any countries be given an advantage if they put a lot of money into promotion to make their entry a hit? And if it’s mandatory, what if artists can’t free their schedule in May 2021?
So many new questions have been raised. Hopefully, we will get answers soon. in the poll below, you can tell us what you prefer.
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Everything about the Song Contest right now feels like it is on pause. So let’s talk about why, and pick up what’s happened over the last week.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Waiting For Our Three Minutes
This week’s news from the Eurovision Song Contest, with the final song announcements, a number of revamps, and some thoughts on the impact of coronavirus.
As we look towards May, stay up to date with all the Eurovision Song Contest news as we head to Rotterdam by listening to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A direct RSS feed is available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
The Bulgarian representative for Eurovision 2020, Victoria has announced that she will perform an on-line concert from her home, for her fans on March 28th..
The performance will last for thirty minutes and will take place from Sofia. The concert will be streamed live via the link eurovision.icard.com at 7 in the evening CET.
If you would like to interact with the singer, who is one of the favourites from this years contest, you can submit a question to Victoria, via her Twiiter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, from Wednesday.
Victoria is doing this as a thank you to her fans, since she has had to cancel her trips to the pre Eurovision parties. Victoria is taking the health recommendations by governments around Europe, seriously and asks that her fans show discipline too. At this time Victoria is very much looking forward to performing as part of The Eurovision Song Contest 2020.
Bulgarian Television have announced that they will contact entrants from other countries to see if they would be interested in hosting something similar.
Bulgarian Head of Press, Vasil Ivanov says that “Despite or maybe because of hard times ahead we should find new ways to bring the fans and artists closer together, as we now live under strict social distancing measures. Eurovision is all about hope, togetherness and joy and this is why we will be in touch with other delegations to host together an online Eurovision concert in April for all the fans of the contest and music lovers around the world”.
Below you can watch Victoria’s entry Tears Getting Sober.
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The host country for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, The Netherlands, has started to implement local restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus. As I write this, the restrictions are in place until Monday April 6th, and include the cancellation of any event of more than 100 people.
The European Broadcasting Union made a statement regarding the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest – set to take place in Rotterdam this May. In its statement, the EBU acknowledge the “current spread of coronavirus” across the world, and it is “closely monitoring the situation”. However “no final decisions” have been made, as the EBU work with the Dutch broadcaster and the City of Rotterdam to “explore different potential scenarios”.
There is a lot of speculation in the community around those scenarios. Perhaps it’s best to go back to the beginning and ask if the principles of Marcel Bezençon offer a potential solution?
Heading Back To 1956
Marcel Bezençon is known today as ‘the father of the Eurovision Song Contest’, and was an EBU director from its inception in 1950 until 1970. As part of the Swiss broadcaster SSR, Bezençon was one of the pioneers of television broadcasting in its infancy, being the first to negotiate television rights for the FIFA World Cup and heading up the EBU’s Programme Committee. In 1955 it was this group that had idea for a multi-national competition of song first appeared.
The Swiss broadcaster was keen to host the event, and Lugano was the destination for the first ever Eurovision Song Contest the following year.
Part of the goals of starting the Eurovision Song Contest was to create a cultural event for all of Europe to enjoy. Using the Sanremo Music Festival in Italy as inspiration, the original rules sought to make the song the focus of the competition. Drafted by Léo Wallenborn (then Director of the EBU’s Administrative Office) the Song Contest was to “encourage the creation of original songs and stimulate a spirit of competition among authors and composers through international comparison“.
However in equal measure the goal was to ’”test the limits of live television broadcast technology“. Before the Song Contest came to town Lugano had no television, and while television was still an incredibly expensive venture (the number of TV sets around Europe would have been in the thousands rather than millions) seven different networks took the transmission live, with another thirteen taking it on delay. It was a huge step of collaboration and trust for post-war Europe to make and the resulting contest became the basis of the Eurovision tradition we all know and love today.
If the European Broadcasting Union is exploring alternatives for 2020, does Bezençon’s foundation for the Eurovision Song Contest provide the blueprint?
Stay Home And Carry On
One possible scenario would be for everybody to stay in their home country and use the power of satellite technology to send their song out to Europe and beyond. Co-ordinated by the EBU and hosted by Dutch broadcaster AVROTROS, satellite links would take in footage from each competing country during their three minutes on stage. Satellite links are of course nothing new for modern Eurovision, having been a part of the voting process all through the 21st century. The new part is using them to transmit the performances themselves.
This scenario fits Bezençon’s criteria because it still gives the songs chance to flourish, as well as testing the collaboration of live television broadcast technology. The songs that the artists and songwriters have spent ages writing and preparing for millions will get their moment to shine. Last year’s winner ’Arcade’ managed to top charts in Belgium, Estonia, Iceland and Luxembourg. This would not have happened without the show being primetime entertainment across an entire continent.
Obviously there are a number of features that would be lost. The presence of Rotterdam would be diminished thanks to no Ahoy Arena with its expensive and innovative stage. Instead we would be asking competing broadcasters to host at home, likely in a local TV studio, with the number of people able to be in the audience in each country likely to be closer to double digits, potentially even limited to that in many nations. Even combined that’s some way off the 15,000 expected for Rotterdam’s hosting.
Denmark’s hosting of Melodi Grand Prix illustrated what would be lost if the Song Contest was held ‘behind closed doors’ with no audience. What that show had in fireworks and confetti it lacked in soul, and as a TV spectacle it was surreal without the thousands of fans in attendance. For it is the thousands upon thousands of fans that make the true energy of Eurovision on the ground. Their flag-waving euphoria is as much the spectacle as any miniature hot-air balloon or human-sized hamster wheel.
Danish broadcaster DR had Copenhagen’s Royal Arena rigged for MGP before it had to close the doors to the audience. Would Rotterdam’s Ahoy Theatre be ready for such as show? It takes a significant number of crew many weeks to rig a venue for Eurovision – last year M&M Productions started the build for Tel Aviv on April 2nd and you can’t ask a technical crew to work from home.
M&M Productions, Eurovision 2019 Crew (Image: M&M Prod)
A New Solution To An Old Show
Relying on satellite-links for our songs means allows us to look at an issue that hasn’t been discussed since that very first Eurovision Song Contest. On the table in 1956 were two proposals; one to allow each country to bring their own production team and produce their entry; and the other, as we have had it ever since, to let the host broadcaster produce the show themselves. A satellite-link competition will have to hand over production of each entry to each participating broadcaster. How much more does that make the Eurovision Song Contest a contest of production rather than song?
The Eurovision Song Contest normally equalises the playing field by giving each broadcaster the same access to all the features of stage design and camera shots. The gulfs in budgets between broadcasters could appear even larger in a satellite-link show, but these are exceptional times calling for compromise and collaboration… after all the biggest power of the Song Contest in 2020 may not be in the competition.
Cultural life in Europe is approaching a standstill as borders close, theatres cancel shows, and sporting competitions are postponed until further notice. Despite the coming of spring there appears to be few distractions over the coming months as I write this article. These are a pivotal few weeks for the whole of society.
The type of Eurovision Song Contest discussed here would be different. Without press on the ground, social media will be more importance in the build up to Grand Final, That show would consist of 26 intimate one-song gigs rather than one packed-out arena showcase. And our host city would be unable to fully engage with the Contest for the traditional fortnight of events.
The EBU and the Dutch broadcasters can still run most of the show elements as planned. The likes of Glennis Grace or DJ Pieter Gabriel can still perform during the Grand Final, but would also have the intimate gig feel. One significant loser in this satellite-link Contest would be Rotterdam. Two minutes of attractive drone footage of the Dutch landscape being beamed to TV sets from Lisadell to Latvia is hardly likely to make up for the pain of not being able to fully host the Song Contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest Is Public Service Broadcasting
The European Broadcasting Union was built on a founding ethos of solidarity and co-operation. It is in times like this when public service broadcasters must work together on a solution. To take one example, the cancellations of sporting events in the United Kingdom has seen the Premier League highlights show Match Of The Day replaced by an four-year-old episode of comedy show ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’. The risk is real that come May, Europe could be entering a cultural desert without events or joyous occasions to look forward to.
There may a different build-up to the Contest, the hundreds of journalists telling the story would also be covering the show remotely, but a Eurovision Song Contest this May could become one of the most anticipated, irrespective of the format.
41 broadcasters uniting for one night of music, song and celebration would have a powerful meaning. It would highlight our co-operation, trust and technology, and it would give our Eurovision artists the chance to share their music on the biggest entertainment showcase on Earth. That showcase isn’t necessarily the physical stage they were expecting, but the scale of the event would remain. I’ve interviewed many a Eurovision artist in my time covering this competition. When I ask artists about their reasoning for entering I invariably get the same answer; ‘I want to perform to millions of people.’
The Eurovision Song Contest’s glitz and glamour is part of that, as is performing on the flashiest stage with the world’s best production crew, but the Song Contest is more than that for an artist. It is about letting each artist share their music and message to as big of an audience as possible.
If he were alive today I believe Marcel Bezençon would look to cutting-edge technology to bring the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest to the world. In 1956 the Song Contest was a beacon of community in a fractured Europe.
The importance of that come May could be even more profound.