I know I’ll always remember where I was when I heard the news.
Australia. In the Eurovision Song Contest.
Now, in terms of Eurovision-related news, this is pretty much akin to man walking on the moon: a lot of people (in Australia) wanted it to happen, but no-one really ever believed it could.
So what’s the deal?
Basically, Australia is entering as a one-time only deal to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the contest. Should they win, they will be permitted to defend their title in 2016, but the show will be held in a European city and not Down Under. The organisers haven’t said anything about further possible participation.
But why Australia?
Eurovision has always been really popular over here and the country has aired the final annually for the past thirty years. (Its popularity is presumably influenced by the huge number of European expats now living over there.)
Over the past few years, the Australian presenters have also been getting more and more involved in the contest – often appearing with BBC presenters for the semi-finals to talk about the cult following the show has in Oz.
Last year, the show even featured an Australian interval act, involving some really cringe dancers with surfboards.
Australia isn’t in Europe. How is this possible?
Under normal circumstances, a country must have at least one national broadcaster which is a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in order to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. (You can read more about the rules for eligibility here.)
Being pretty far outside Europe, Australia has no such broadcaster. Instead, its one-off participation is the result of a direct deal with the EBU and SBS, the channel which normally shows the contest.
How have people reacted?
Well, judging purely from my Facebook feed, reactions to the news seem fairly mixed, but the two Australians I’ve spoken to about it seem absolutely ecstatic. (Bless.)
Press coverage in the UK & Ireland seems fairly positive, but it’s yet to be seem how Eastern Europe reacts. The Czech Republic, for example, are making their return after five years this year and it seems that Australia may have stolen their thunder… And we all know Russia love to kick up a fuss…
Australia have also been given a free pass to the final in order not to reduce the chances of qualification for other countries. However, this might rub some participating nations up the wrong way.
Several countries over the years have become disgruntled at the current Big Five ruling system, which permits the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to skip the semi-finals and go straight to the final as they contribute the most financially. (In fact, Turkey cited this as a reason for their withdrawal from the contest in 2013 – they have yet to return.)
What will this mean for the contest?
To be honest, not a great deal I don’t think.
Australia lacks strong cultural ties with countries in Central and Eastern Europe, so I predict that any effect felt by Australia’s participation will be felt strongest in the UK & Ireland.
Hopefully, it will also mean a few points thrown in the direction of the UK, thanks to similar cultural interests and the sheer numbers of British expats on Australian soil.
Streuth! Could Australia win?
I think it’s unlikely that Australia will win. Apart from the UK & Ireland, few other countries in Europe have strong ties to Oz, which might be to their disadvantage. (Of course, it’s likely their song will be pretty good, but it always helps to have a few ‘allies’.)
I would predict the Aussies will finish around 10th or 11th.
However, Eurovision does love a good novelty act, so who knows…?
What do you think – a great stunt or a step too far?