Eurovision isn't just for May, it's all year

Thursday 9 May 2013, 17:07

Ewan Spence Ewan Spence Freelance Journalist

Tagged with:

On May 18th, the Grand Final of the 58th Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on BBC One and BBC Radio 2. One of the world's biggest Song Contests, with a combined global audience of around 120 million viewers, it is an annual fixture in the calendar, and means many things to many people. For some it's a car crash of light entertainment, for others it's one of the few times the complicated landscape of European politics can be easily explained, and for a few it's the culmination of a year of hard work.

Started in 1956 in a post-second world war landscape, 'father' of the Contest, Marcel Bezançon - a then producer at the fledgling collaboration of European broadcasters, the EBU - envisioned a television show that would bring together the people and the nations of Europe.

The TV format quickly proposed and subsequently agreed upon by the European Broadcasting Union (there was another continental competition on the table which failed to make the grade) was the Eurovision Song Contest: a light entertainment show based around the Italian San Remo Song Contest, a programme to be broadcast live across all partners in the EBU - an excellent vehicle to test out and showcase the then new broadcasting technologies. 

The first contest was broadcast in 1956. The BBC submitted their entry form too late, so the UK's first contest was in 1957. The UK has never missed a show since 1959.

One aspect of proceedings that perhaps isn't always apparent to the viewer is the co-operation needed between broadcasters in the EBU. There are countless meetings throughout the year and in the run up to the Contest between the 'host broadcaster' (this year it's Sweden's SVT), the countries entering the Contest, and the EBU themselves, to discuss not just the rules and formats of the Contest, but also logistics around the live broadcast event (now three two hour shows comprising semi-finals and final), sharing knowledge and expertise around Europe and beyond.

But, just like a puppy and Christmas time, the Eurovision network is not just for three nights in May. With a digital and broadcast network available throughout the year, the EBU not only acts as a distribution point for news clips, international sporting events and music concerts (such as dedicated music days on BBC Radio 3, for example), but also as a single entity when bidding for TV rights to global sporting events.

That's what the co-operation seen at the Eurovision Song Contest helps foster. A spirit of working together, to help every European broadcaster deliver the best quality television and radio to their audiences. The benefits of the Eurovision Song Contest to the broadcaster are not just external in terms of output, Eurovision has always been a test-bed for technologies inside the broadcaster too.

1968 Eurovision Song Contest Broadcast in colour for the first time, the 1968 Contest was hosted by the BBC in London.

The first show in 1956 saw pictures beamed live from Switzerland across Europe, with commentators broadcasting for their local audience. 1968 saw the first colour broadcast when the BBC hosted the event at the Royal Albert Hall. The advent of Ceefax offered an opportunity for viewers to watch subtitled song lyrics in real-time. Telephone voting was fully integrated across the competing countries in 1998 when the BBC last hosted Eurovision in Birmingham -  another way in which technology went hand in hand with the competition. Now, it's possible to watch the entire live show streamed on a mobile device. Things have come a long way since Marcel Bezançon’s idea in 1956.

It's subtle, but I reckon the Eurovision Song Contest hits the three original tenets of the BBC - to educate, to inform, and to entertain. The Eurovision provides one way of looking at population movements across Europe via the often commented on voting process. Is there any other mainstream programme where you can hear so much local music from other cultures? And when a live show brings in millions of viewers across a continent throughout a three hour spectacular (and even more come in from the iPlayer and time-shifted recorded versions), can there be any doubt that is entertaining?

Ewan Spence is a freelance journalist currently working with Australian broadcaster SBS Radio at the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo.

  • The Eurovision Song Contest is on BBC One, BBC One HD and Radio 2 at 8pm on Saturday 18 May. The semi-finals will be broadcast on BBC Three from 8pm on Tuesday 14 and Thursday 16 May.
  • Follow BBC Eurovision on Twitter @BBCEurovision. 
  • Read more from Ewan Spence on ESCInsight and follow him on Twitter @Ewan.

 

Tagged with:

Comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    I wasn't a fan of Terry Wogan, that professional Irish pixie, but at least he was better suited than Graham Norton to present the BBC's televised Eurovision. It may seem like telly to the producer, but it's really TV plus radio. Norton hasn't a background in radio and hasn't spent years listening to himself in headphones to learn the mic techniques of diction, emphasis and timing, which aren't the same when people can't see your face. And his volume balance with the TV feed's audio was poor as well, sorry.

 

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Previous
Music, Monarchy & Tea with David Starkey at Westminster Abbey

Wednesday 8 May 2013, 10:54

Next
The return of BBC Radio 1’s Academy

Friday 10 May 2013, 12:47

About this Blog

This blog explains what the BBC does and how it works. We link to some other blogs and online spaces inside and outside the corporation. The blog is edited by Jon Jacob.

Follow About the BBC on Twitter

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

External links about the BBC

Future Media roles to move to Salford (Ariel)

Wimbledon final watched by 10 million (Guardian)
"Novak Djokovic victory over Roger Federer takes 54% share on BBC1, but no match for Andy Murray’s win last year"

TV News celebrates its 60th birthday (Ariel)

Doctor Who: Frank Cottrell Boyce is a genius, says Steven Moffat (Digital Spy)
"BBC One has confirmed that Frank Cottrell Boyce will script an episode of Doctor Who."

Danger Mouse remake will see some male characters returning as females (Guardian)
"CBBC’s Cheryl Taylor promises show ‘truthful to the essence of Danger Mouse’ but with fresh ideas"

BBC appoints Matthew Postgate as chief technology officer (Guardian)
"Current controller of research and development was part of the management team that created iPlayer and built mobile services"

Radio 5 Live: Presenters Richard Bacon, Victoria Derbyshire and Shelagh Fogarty among names leaving BBC radio station (Mirror)

Doctor Who trailer: take a Deep Breath, Capaldi fans (Guardian)
"A teaser for the 'feature-length' first episode of the new Doctor Who series has materialised, complete with Peter Capaldi, the Tardis in flames and a hint of menace"

Teenagers take over Scottish Thought for the Day (Ariel)

BBC increases digital radio coverage with Northern transmitters (Prolific North)

BBC to show off Commonwealth Games in 4K UHD (TechRadar)
"first ever event to be produced entirely over IP/internet networks - which the BBC is calling a 'major broadcasting milestone'"

BBC3 wins big at 2014 Broadcast Digital Awards (Broadcast)

Glastonbury 2014: how to watch it on TV (Daily Telegraph)
"Missed out on Glastonbury Festival tickets this year? Follow all the action from home using our BBC TV and Radio guide."

BBC experiments with virtual reality (Ariel)

BBC stages first world war rap battle (Guardian)

UK media in one-minute silence protest over jailing of al-Jazeera journalists (Guardian)
"Hundreds of reporters across BBC and other media organisations speak out against Egyptian government’s verdict"

Licence fee should be charged to iPlayer users, says acting chair of BBC Trust (Guardian)
"Diane Coyle, acting chair of the BBC Trust, says the BBC is 'less independent than it needs to be'"

Acting BBC Trust chair to apply to become Lord Patten’s replacement (Guardian)

BBC announces new comedy pilots (Chortle)
"the Comedy Feeds show serious commitment to finding the next best writers, directors and faces of British comedy"

After 25 years at the helm Jeremy Paxman presents his final Newsnight (Telegraph) 
"During his tenure, the 63-year-old earned a reputation as one of the most fearless and feared interviewers"

Sherlock and Downton Abbey are as good as Breaking Bad and Mad Men, says BBC boss (Independent)

Does Mary Berry Cooks mark a breakthrough for older women on TV?Does Mary Berry Cooks mark a breakthrough for older women on TV? (Guardian)"What results is an unapologetically old-fashioned TV show with a presenter who makes no attempt to disguise when she was born"

Last updated Tuesday 8 July 2014

Blogs from across the BBC

Selected by the About the BBC Blog team.

The Events - Q&A with writer David Greig [Writersroom]
Cooking with Cat: banana yoghurt ice lollies and savoury pastry tart [CBeebies Grown Ups]
Five ways local media can help itself #localjournalism [Academy]
Responsive design in data and tables [Internet]
Preview Tactics [Kermode Uncut]

Connected Red Button: a first look at the new service on Smart TVs [Internet]