What’s stopping Wales competing in Eurovision – and would we do better than the UK? Experts give their views
The BBC would need to give up being the UK’s Eurovision broadcaster before Wales was allowed to compete in its own right, according to experts on the subject.
Wales has already competed in Junior Eurovision in 2018 and 2019 but has always been represented by the United Kingdom at the main event.
Phil Jackson, Associate Head of Media at Edge Hill University and expert on all things Eurovision, said that it would be difficult to see a Welsh entry while the BBC remained the main public service broadcaster in Wales.
“Wales is currently not eligible to be a competitive country as we compete as the United Kingdom,” he said.
“Devolved government does not mean separate participation, as the Eurovision Song Contest is populated by the main member public service broadcaster of each country.
“For the UK it’s the BBC, although S4C are members of the European Broadcasting Union.”
Lynn Kenway of Eurovision Times concurred that while the BBC was in charge Wales would not be represented.
“Although we’ve seen Wales compete in the Junior Eurovision in 2018 and 2019, I don’t see how they can possibly compete in the adult version whilst the BBC is still officially the UK’s broadcaster for Eurovision,” she said.
“If the BBC ever gave up being the broadcaster, then we may see the possibility of different broadcasters picking it up – as United Kingdom Independent Broadcasting did for Junior Eurovision.
“Then we could see nations entering rather than a United Kingdom entry, but whilst the publicly-funded BBC runs the show, they will want to represent the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Dr. Paul Jordan, expert on the Eurovision Song Contest, said that one possible solution was for the nations of the UK to take turns in putting up an act.
“It may technically be possible to devolve the entry each year but I think it would probably still end up being a UK entry,” he said.
The experts also had mixed views on whether a Welsh entry would be more successful on its own than UK entries have been since they last won, in 1997.
A Welsh language entry might help the nation stand out from the crowd, Dr Paul Jordan said.
“I think they may be more interest and intrigue in Wales, particularly if there is a Welsh selection,” he said.
“Ukraine won the contest in 2016 with a song in English and Crimean Tatar. It depends on the song and how it comes across on the night.
“I definitely think English language songs have an advantage, but Portugal showed in 2017 that you can still win by singing in your native language – and standing out by doing so.”
Phil Jackson however wasn’t sure that a Welsh entry would do any better than the UK had done.
“Well, Bonnie Tyler represented the UK in 2013, and as a Welsh performer didn’t exactly catch the imagination of the voters!” he said.
“It depends. The UK have done badly as the quality of songs and performers for many years has been substandard, and at the end of the day what the UK has sent hasn’t been particularly good.
“It does depend on song and performer, so if Wales could provide something of more interest to the international audience then they might do well.”
Lynn Kenway of Eurovision Times also said that what matters at the end of the day is the song and performer, not politics.
“The most frustrating cliché for me is that no one votes for us because they don’t like us,” she said. “ They don’t vote for us because we don’t have a good enough song or performer!
“If we send something half decent people vote for it as we saw with Blue and Jade Ewan. We need a new way of doing things at the BBC on everything; the type of song, performer, staging and attitude towards Eurovision.
“Other countries ‘get’ Eurovision, have modernised and score highly every year. With the amount of musical talent in the UK we should too.
“If we do badly again this year it will allow the same old voices to lazily claim this time it was down to Brexit. That’s just not how people vote when 220 million of them sit in front of the TV that Saturday night in May.”
Phil Jackson agreed that Brexit was unlikely to be on the voters’ minds and they hand out the points.
“It’s not about that. It is about being entertained, and I wouldn’t have thought people don’t vote for us because of Brexit. When you vote you vote for the songs that you like,” he said.
“In terms of politics, I think that it operates on the periphery, but the event is not political, and that’s why it’s light entertainment. The EBU have strict rules on song content, and they do not allow anything political.
“Armenia this year had to withdraw its entry after it emerged it had political undertones.
“The simmering tensions of the relationships and antagonisms between countries don’t go away just because they are competing in the same contest, but for a few hours of light entertainment every year it’s about being entertained and – cheesy though it sounds – being united through song and forgetting what’s going on outside the euro-bubble.”
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