Why Australia’s wildcard to Eurovision could be our saviour

11 February 2015

Australia to compete in Vienna

Three years ago, disgusted by the disrespect and ultra frivolity that the Eurovision Song Contest was receiving by Australia’s broadcaster, SBS, that I wrote a blog on the Eurovision website “Why Australia is a disgrace to Eurovision”. With news that Australia will compete as a wildcard at the 60th anniversary edition in Vienna this year, that caused a visceral recollection of all those concerns, fearing that an actual presence could be embarrassing to both Europe and Australia. What sort of act might we send? Will our voting be compromised by the awkward timezone and the migrant diaspora?

Note that unless Australia win, their entry is just for this year. In case of a win, SBS will co-host with a European broadcaster in Europe next year.

First, the blog from 2012, then follows the update…

Why Australia is a disgrace to Eurovision

03 June 2012

Many Eurovision fans would now be aware that Australia is becoming a big part of the Eurovision family. While the contest has been televised for over 30 years in Australia, it’s only been the last 4 years that the telecaster, SBS-TV, a government funded “ethnic” broadcaster that caters to Australia’s multiculturalism, has sent its own commentators. With the one exception of 2004 when there was a failed experiment with the snorting Des Mangan, SBS has taken the British telecast with Terry Wogan. Wogan, in his latter and ever increasing cynical years, was a disgrace by constantly talking during the songs. It negated so much his actual good commentary that involved knowledge and wit, that he had to go.

Russia 2009, enter Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang. Zemiro is most noted for hosting SBS’s Rockwiz music/quiz program while Pang was noted for nothing other than some despot of nauseating schoolboy jokes on some minor radio station that apparently made him a comedian. The fact that SBS chose to send a comedian tells you enough of their intention to present ESC to Australia and their disrespect for the contest itself. SBS is also known as the soccer channel (Soccer Bloody Soccer), and would never dare send a comedian to a World Cup for commentary on matches.

Zemiro and Pang were quickly reviled as hosts, lambasted by fans in opinion pages and social media, with Zemiro’s supposed fanaticism of ESC amounting to nothing other than schoolgirl “whooping” and “hollering” and snide innuendo. Her first ever Eurovision television contribution – to Montenegro in SF1 – was to suggest some sort of sexual antics that Andrea was performing with the chair. Pang’s so-called jokes were equally lamentable, and made worse by his obvious disdain for most entries. Until he was shunted to ESC, he had never even heard of the event.

Even with these two dropkicks as host, their presence was welcome for two reasons: 1) SBS would have some control over them and could respond to viewer feedback; 2) their interviews with the contestants were generally zany and entertaining. Other than the sheer ignorance and pathetic jokes (of which can easily be blocked from the conscience), their other fault was talking during the songs. Especially cutting in before the song finished, and typically to only cheer with a “Yeah” like a gymnast just landed her triple twisting somersault, or lame remarks like “There’s Estonia”, “Good job Albania”, “That was song 11” or “Well done”. For 2010 and 2011, this behaviour thankfully began to temper.

Come 2012, as the audience was beginning to grow, instead of beginning to take the contest seriously, SBS chose the retrograde step to ramp up the mockery. Viewers would have noticed the “shout out” during the telecast of the final from Baku. That would have given Europe a false impression about Australia’s interest, when the truth is the obverse and would not be appreciated by Europe if they were fully award of SBS’s role.

First, SBS did a two-hour documentary about Zemiro’s 2 week road trip in a van, meeting many ESC stars both past and present, and the Azeri hosts. The greeting from the hosts during Eurovision was probably more for that effort. Second, for the contest itself, SBS’s 100% committed role was to treat it as a joke, and that’s treating it as joke far worse than ever before. They took all opportunity to mock it, increasing it even further by use of twitter and showing inane comments during the postcards. SBS even started mocking the interval act for fear of losing viewers.

The impact of SBS’s mockery is to present a broadcast as something that has scant regard for the contest, artists or music itself. Zemiro rarely comments about the songs other than cheering for her favourites and wondering why they fail (like Norway this year), while Sam is often stunned if a song doesn’t make him throw up. The viewers in Australia are just as indifferent, and the telecast on this minor broadcaster is ultra-delayed to Friday, Saturday & Sunday evenings. That’s right. For true fans of Eurovision in Australia, they are forced to wait 3 days just to see the first semi final, and that’s to see the semi in a mocked fashion. Highly unacceptable.

The worst aspect of this strategy to treat ESC as a subject for gross mockery is that the strategy might be working for the moment. While the audience is still small in comparison to major shows on the commercial networks, ratings did improve to 9% of total viewers watching TV on Sunday evening – up from 5% of earlier years. The problem here is that there’s a finite audience that’s only watching for mockery. Even then, there reaches a point for all individuals that the quirky European fashions and lyrics and antics become passe, resulting in boredom and stop watching. The essence of Eurovision remains about the music and the broader entertainment of the show.

The other issue is that if SBS continue to promote ESC as a show of Euro-trash whose prime reason for existence is to be mocked, how will they ever grow their audience based on the music and some of the great artists that perform? For 95% of Australians, if they have any knowledge of ESC, it’s that it’s ultra-cheap Euro-trash music. Why would anyone begin to watch if SBS continues to perpetuate this myth? Those that they might attract, they’ll just watch for the occasional cheap laugh, and to see if they can get their obnoxious twitter messages on screen. After the show, it’s forget ESC, unless they see the SBSeurovision hash-tag trending on twitter.

The solution to this SBS nightmare is simple: 1) Dump Sam Pang and send someone with some sort of knowledge and interest that can impart the occasional wit; 2) Show SBS live, or at least same-day coverage, preferably as the raw feed. The real ESC fans can get the ESC that they want, while they’ll also watch the packaged shows on the traditional SBS late week, stacked broadcasts.

The implication of Australia’s Eurovision wildcard 

11 February 2015

1) The most critical aspect for fans is that finally, finally, finally Australia will get to watch Eurovision live rather than up to 3 days late. Even if Australia were not involved and therefore with even fewer viewers than will likely watch this year, most people have recording devices these days so at least watching ESC can be a same day affair.

2) With a live broadcast, Australia can actually be part of the Eurovision community! Now there’s no need to ignore social media for days, block or hide Eurovision accounts, or even stay offline totally and avoid all TV for the Sunday for fear of hearing the result. This year Australia can even vote. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent any compromised voting situation – the timezone can’t be changed and it’s only natural for the diaspora to vote for their homeland – so we wait and see the results.

3) Most important for Eurovision itself, in terms of the Australian public’s general regard for it, by actually sending a competitor, so should come a respect for the artists and songs. Surely Australians are unlikely to mock their own? Watching within this prism of respect should then refocus attention on all the other artists and their songs, and the show itself, rather than the current perversion of looking for avenues to mock and laugh. That will help build the audience beyond the current finite Eurotrash novelty aspect, and make it worthy to be shown live every year.

Despite all my concerns with Australia’s participation, there is an added anticipation and excitement for Eurovision this year. It will be fascinating to see the response to Australia on stage and actually competing. Europeans are currently split, either believing Australia has no place and this indulgence has gone too far, or they’re happy to expand the Eurovision community and welcome this distant friend.

Australians are split by interest: fans are ecstatic; the general population are contemptuous. The two major newspaper websites barely mentioned it, with one not even showing it anywhere on their homepage, while anecdotally, it’s mostly surprise and, yes, plenty of derision. For instance, note the comments section and the polling options including Taylor Swift and Warwick Capper (an 80s footballer) here

Quick. Find some bad costumes.
There’s only one ACTIVE Australian band with the cachet, pep and talent to represent Oz in Eurovision: The Wiggles.
Looking at the poll (results) it’s easy to see not many have taken it seriously [Capper leads], not even those who compiled the names.
That’s no fun. Eurovision is all about laughing at others and making ourselves feel good for not being involved.
Will we still be able to laugh at it when we’re in it? Or will we have to take it seriously now?
Every mediocrity wants to be part of “Euro” these days.
Just another multi-national event that we undoubtedly will feel we deserve to win.

Yes, let’s hope Australia’s participation might begin to change this mentality. If not, who cares about mainstream bogan Australia anyway. Eurovision will be live this year. Did I say live? Yes, LIVE!

Who will Australia send?

Kylie Minogue, Rick-Lee Coulter or Jessica Mauboy are obvious names. There’s talk of someone fossilised, like Olivia Newton-John, who competed for Britain in 1974. If I had a personal choice, it would be Delta Goodrem. She actually has an album due so a song from that can qualify and the Eurovision stage would obviously be great promotion for her. Few in Europe know her and they are missing out. Her music can range from classical piano ballad to infectious pop. I can’t see too many options elsewhere. No other female singer has a suitable profile and to send someone of low profile would be insulting. No serious male singer or band would go, as ESC lacks the “street cred”.



4 responses to “Why Australia’s wildcard to Eurovision could be our saviour

  1. You consider not, that more additional countries participated on EV mean more TV shows in one weekend (that is over)? I remember the times on the start 00′ with 1-evening (long) show, after there were EVs with one, after two semis yet. There were some long, I was tired to see 3 days one contest with some reversed performances semifinals winners too. There is too long and boring for me. Please, care about these people. 🙂

    • Eurovision got too big for one show. With 40 countries these days, 40 songs in one night would be crazy. So the organisers had no choice. They already had an untelevised pre-qualifying to deal with these numbers before making it a televised semi final. One semi final also became too big and became unfair so it made sense to have two. I like the format, especially that it gives countries the extra triumph of just qualifying for the final and also spreads the Eurovision fever over a week.

  2. Buddy have you not heard the name DAMI IM? Best Vocalist & she is a rising Star ready to dominate the International Music scene. She makes a mockery of every other Artist when they perform on the same stage & this girl has never, ever lost a contest or competition….never….

    • Good call! Great voice and performer, has the look, and fits the multi-cultural image that we like to project. My reality TV viewing is limited to Pawn Stars, news and professional wrestling, so I wasn’t really that aware of her. I’ll post “Alive” as an example. Great stuff!

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