10 January 2016
Only two years ago I wrote a scathing critique on Australia’s chances of ever competing in the Eurovision Song Contest, citing our disrespect and mockery of the contest, problems of timezone and that Australia was not part the European Broadcasting Union and unlikely to ever be. How times change. Now it seems Europe cannot get rid of us. After the successful guest appearance in 2015 in which Australia finished 5th in the final, Australia are back for 2016, this time with a spot in the semi finals. There’s no direct spot to the final like for the 60th anniversary celebrations.
As is typical – and wonderful – about Eurovision, the reaction to the news of Australia’s return has been wild and polarising. Each side has made a good case about the return, as did the European Broadcasting Union itself. So let’s analyse the pros and cons and ask should Australia be in the Eurovision Song Contest?
1) Australia want to be there.
This was the key reason offered by the EBU, saying the return was a result of the “overwhelmingly positive” response to the appearance in 2015. Also, Australia had shown so much passion and were “incredibly enthusiastic” to be a part of ESC, that it made another invitation too compelling to ignore. Something was definitely brewing for a return when Australia were belatedly invited to the 2015 Junior Eurovision. As speculated in the JESC preview, that if moves were afoot for Australia to be permanent participants at Eurovision, then participating in JESC not only made sense, it might have been part of the deal. Whether it is permanent, it seems likely. If the goodwill and enthusiasm continues each year, why would ESC ever deny Australia?
2) Australians love Eurovision
While the level of fanaticism is often way over-stated, facts are Australia does have a 30-year relationship with ESC and a dedicated following. Even though the general population continues to deride it as a joke, everyone knows about it, and everyone might have watched the odd bit here and there. SBS, the host broadcaster, has been sending its own commentary team since 2009, and built the television audience to a level that they now regard ESC as their showpiece TV event of the year. This loyalty played a big part in gaining another invitation.
3) Europe loved Australia in 2015
Australia were an overwhelming success in last year’s ESC, with a quality song and performance, and enthusiasm, and were universally embraced by those in the arena, the broadcaster and the other artists. The outrage against Australia is almost exclusive to social media and public forums, which are haven for attracting the most virulent and aggressive people. Why even bother listen to those people when we should listen to those directly experiencing the shows?
4) Australia is a European nation even if it’s not in Europe
Before the recent wave of Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese and Arab immigration, the population of Australia was almost entirely European. Modern Australia would not exist today without the initial colonisation by the British and then the massive immigration wave from mainland Europe after World War 2. Even though many European roots are so distant that current generations identify more as Australian than from the countries of their ancestors, European culture still pervades much of Australia’s and we still occasionally like to cheer for those old homelands, like football and Eurovision.
5) The more the merrier!
Why shut the doors on other countries that want to attend? After all, ESC has expanded many times before, both physically and geographically, and the EBU have already indicated they’d like ESC to expand further into a more global event, and making it “bigger and better”. With associate members including Brazil, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA, it would certainly be a bigger, more global ESC if all were involved. Would it be better?
1) Australia is not part of the EBU
This should be the key disqualification. Since Australia is outside the European broadcasting area, it can never be a full member of the EBU and therefore never eligible for ESC. The EBU has obviously relaxed this membership requirement and Australia compete by virtue of its associate member status and as an invited guest.
2) 2015 was meant to be a “one-off” appearance
This reassurance from organisers was a key factor that placated many fans against Australia’s role in 2015. Now the EBU has reversed their decision, which no doubt factors more in the criticism against Australia than the participation itself. People don’t like being betrayed, and their resentment is perfectly understandable.
3) Australia is not in Europe
While proponents for Australia argue neither is Israel in Europe, Israel do lie within the European broadcasting area, so are eligible for ESC. As, too, are the northern most African countries and some Arab states. ESC eligibility depends on EBU membership, which depends on being in the EBA, not being part of the European continent.
4) Australia can’t host Eurovision if they win
Don’t bet on it! Despite claims Australia would join with a European broadcaster and host in Europe, watch SBS petition heavily to host Eurovision in Australia. After all, they’ve put all this time and financial investment into it and petitioned successfully for another invitation, so as long as the broadcast times suit the European timezone, there really is no argument against it. Broadcasts would start at 6am Australian eastern time, which won’t deter local fans and the many visitors from attending this very rare event.
5) Eurovision will risk losing its “Europeanness”
This is the most valid reason. A big part of the reason Australians like Eurovision is because of its quirky European appeal. There’s no Australians there for one, nor Americans, nor anyone except those crazy Europeans. That gives ESC its special appeal and joie de vivre, and to lose that, by expanding so far beyond its borders and culture, it will be selling out its soul. I love that quaint microcosm of European goodness that is Eurovision and observing it fondly from this great distance. Leave it alone. It’s perfect!
The idea scenario is that Eurovision offer one or two wildcards to associate members each year. Entry would be on a rotational basis, and if a country declines its chance, the next country in line can accept. If it’s two wildcards offered, then one goes into each semi final. This keeps the selection transparent and fair, and ends the squabbling that’s being caused by the current ad hoc approach. Since Australia is lucky that no other countries are expressing interest to be involved in Eurovision, the wildcard situation is a permanent spot, at least for the short term.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a national final? Even if it’s only 5 candidates, something is better than nothing. It’s unlikely because, like last year, SBS will probably align with a record company to help defray the costs and use Eurovision to promote the selected artist into the European music scene. If that is the case, maybe that artist can perform 3 songs at a selection for the public to pick. This would obviously raise excitement, and be another television event for SBS.
As for the names, if it’s Sony involved again, Delta Goodrem is the obvious candidate, particular with a new album due. The risk is, like Guy Sebastian last year, that with the public’s opinion already formed about her, the response will be polarised. In Delta’s favour, her profile is at its peak, especially with the public warming to her as a coach for several seasons on The Voice.
The other option is someone untried, and more curious, that might excite. Dami Im was the common name tossed about last year. I’d never heard of her until then, and she’d be a great choice. She wouldn’t need a new record either, because re-releasing an older record with the Eurovision song added would suffice for Europe.
Ignoring record companies, Kylie Minogue is the most frequent and prominent name mentioned, and would draw the greatest publicity. If SBS want to go bigger and better themselves, she’s it.
Personally, I don’t care, as long as it’s a serious artist and a good song.
Australia to return to the Eurovision Song Contest
First of all I like your wide ranging article here, and you’ve covered most of the pros and cons that I have seen since the announcement and some that I hadn’t even thought of. I agree that the last point you mentioned against having Australia as a full participant in ongoing years of the ESC is the fundamental deciding point.
However the reality is that the EBU want this to happen to grow the coverage (and income) for Eurovision, and SBS want the prestige of regular participation and the advertising revenue. So it appears to be a done deal now, although I am sure the rules could be further “bent” to allow for your preferred scenario in the longer term, if there were other countries putting their hands (and money) up.
As for the choice of song and singer for Australia, I would also be happy to see a real contest being run for the selection, but I think that, given the timeframe, it will be a replay of the “selection process” for 2015 with a bidding contest between the two major labels – Sony and Universal, to maximise funding for the ESC coverage. I wonder if SBS and BlinkTV will maintain the charade of inviting nominations for song and singer this time, though this would stretch their credibility.
If the chosen label is Universal then maybe Tina Arena as has been mentioned, Troye Sivan or Anja Nissen however she is rumoured to be in the top 10 competition for Denmark.
The most likely label is Sony as they will want it again, and the artist favoured by them would definitely be Delta for all the reasons you mentioned, she has the profile and been around for a long time, so she would be a reasonably popular choice. However I am definitely with you in wanting to see a really talented newcomer given the opportunity, and agree that the one new Australian singer who stands out both vocally and musically is Dami Im.
I have to declare that I am a fan of Dami because of her vocal abilities in multiple genres – classical, gospel, jazz and pop, as well being a fully qualified and accomplished pianist. She has built considerable experience over the last two years with 5 released singles and 2 albums, as well as many live performances including in front of huge audiences at the Carols in the Domain and millions of TV viewers delivering extraordinary vocal performances:
2013 audience 60,000 – Silent Night
2014 audience 100,000 – O Holy Night
2015 audience 75,000 – Come All Ye Faithful
Dami has also been on Korean TV recently where well known singers compete in masks and she received over 80% of the vote for this very impressive performance of a well known song in Korean –
She did a video explaining this show and her experience on it –
And she has just performed in Beijing at the BTV Springtime Festival Global Gala event singing in Chinese and English, this was recorded last weekend in front of a large live audience, and it will be broadcast on Chinese TV for their New Year on 8th of February to over 200 Million people. So high pressure live performances in front of audiences of many thousands and millions on TV is an environment Dami is experienced with and excels in. She also has newly written songs recorded in 2015 and to be on an album for release soon.
Thanks for the feedback. Yes, Anja Nissen is confirmed for Denmark’s Eurovision selection.
I bought Dami Im’s last album as a result of the publicity last year and was impressed by it. I got Sia’s for Christmas 2014 and finally listened to it at the same time as Dami’s. I could not split them and was even thinking of writing a comparative review. Lack of time prevented that. I might do it if Dami is selected because I devised a fun process to compare them, and would be curious myself to discover the winner.
Dami would certainly be a worthy candidate. I’d be content with that. Tina Arena is an interesting name. She’d be our cliche candidate for Eurovision if ever there was ever one.
Yes many do compare Dami Im to Sia, but at least Dami faces her audience and interviewers as herself, also she doesn’t wear disguises – unless she is performing on a “masked singer” TV show that is! 😀
I would also be very interested in you’re album comparison process and review results if she is selected. You may have to buy another new album by Dami soon and then have two of her albums to compare to Sia’s 😉
Tina would be the true Euro-Aus representative indeed, and she has the voice and experience, but like yourself I would much prefer that we send a new, upcoming and “different” singer to Eurovision, though the “business heads” will probably mandate against that sadly. May be next year SBS willnhave the time available and can get together a competitive selection process on a TV show to more directly engage both the ESC fans and general viewing audience, or possibly a “Melodi Grand Prix” using their radio stations as well – either of these methods could be a really good thing in Australia I think, and would fit better with the “European way”, rather than the shallow and non-involving “label selection” charade we have had.
Well it is Dami Im as the singer to represent Australia, and I am more than happy after seeing the announcement!
So I would be interested in your thoughts after her EV song is released on 11 March.
Also, you had said that you would like to do an album comparison review between the Sia and Dami albums that you have, hopefully that will happen sometime soon as I would be interested in your findings.
I think that Australia mustn’t join Eurovision due to being non-EBU member and located in outside Europe. I would suggest that Australia could establish its own pan-continental song contest. The song contest which could be participated by Australia is Oceanovision Song Contest, a pan-Oceanian music event which participants are coming from Oceanian island countries. All Oceanian countries, from Australia, New Zealand until smaller countries can join this contest. The format of OSC is similar with ESC, only selection is adapted due to the smaller population. OSC also reflect the true Oceanian culture with little or no intervention of mainstream cultures such as American culture. OSC must be unique to Oceania in order to promote Oceanian culture to international audiences. With OSC, we could see various acts from Oceanian countries. OSC also has age categories, they’re General (for artists aged 18 years and over), Teens (for artists below 18 years old) and Kids (for artists below 13 years old). This mean that OSC isn’t just for adults, minors also can participate at OSC contests for kids and teens. Teens OSC and Kids OSC are equivalent with JESC, but the selection is adapted due to the smaller population. Teens OSC and Kids OSC would present various age-appropriate songs for minors. I hoped that Oceanovision Song Contest is exist and become the leading pan-continental song contest in Oceania.
Asia would be more likely because Oceania is so small. Even presuming an Asia Vision, it’s unlikely to work either because the success of Eurovision is due primarily to that “Europeanness” that I mention in my last point. It’s a special quality that I doubt can be replicated elsewhere in the world, and being a part of that attracts Australia much more than the pure competition of singing. If there was a local regional competition, Australia would still shun it and prefer to be in Eurovision.
I think that Australia and NZ could participate at Asiavision Song Contest due to close connection with Asian countries.
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