There’s a lot of strong opinion on the United Kingdom and the BBC’s involvement with the Eurovision Song Contest online. I did promise in my last article that I had an answer. This is it.
It might not be right, it might have a number of implementation problems for the BBC, but it’s doable, treads on as few internal toes as possible, and could easily result in a respectable finishing position from the 2013 Contest.
We’ve identified the culprit – it’s not the rest of Europe, political voting, Balkan Block Voting, or anyone else. It’s the BBC. The plan they had simply did not work. That doesn’t mean they’ll walk away, though.
Let’s start here. There’s no way the BBC will ever drop Eurovision.
Yes the raw viewing figures were down this year on last year, but it was unseasonably good weather on May 26th 2012, Look at the market share of 36.2% of everyone watching; an average of 7.47 million viewers (peaking to 9.6 million for the results). How well did the flagship show ‘The Voice’ do earlier in the night? A 28.8% share and 4.49 million viewers.
Eurovision has popular support, and the BBC budget planners will support it as well. The entrance fee for Eurovision is around £295,000. I’m extrapolating that from our Freedom of Information request on the 2009 and 2010 Contests which cost £279,805 and £283,190 to enter respectively. EBU membership for the BBC is around £10 million per year, so it’s a very small part of our contribution.
Production costs on top of that? That’s a tougher call, but my best guess is there’s another £200,000 in there for all the BBC activites – with no National Final to produce in the last two years the Eurovsion department has managed to weather the cuts the BBC implemented across the board better than some.
Total estimated cost, about half a million pounds.
The Voice? Licencing alone was £22 million for two years, and the production costs are on top of that. Simply put, The Eurovision Song Contest is an absolute bargain. If the BBC were to cancel it, they would need to find more money to replace the three hours of empty Saturday night scheduling.
It’s value for money, it delivers an audience, it serves the BBC charter very well, and it’s part of the BBC’s heritage. It’s staying with Auntie.
Part of the success of the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK has to go down to the BBC promotional machine. In the two weeks leading up to the Contest it popped up on a number of properties, including BBC Breakfast, The One Show, various radio shows (including good old Ken Bruce doing a three hour preview from outside the Crystal Hall), and in the national press. Nobody in the UK could miss the fact the Contest was happening, and we had Engelbert Humperdink singing for us.
All that press delivered the impressive viewing figures, and one of those ‘water cooler’ TV shows that everyone talks about. What it failed to deliver was votes for the United Kingdom. If the majority of publicity was inward facing and promoting the show as a whole, how will people on the continent – the people who can vote for the UK! - know about the song, about the artist, and build up the affinity needed to make them pick up the phone and cast their vote for The Hump.
Even the slogan ‘Get Behind The Hump‘ felt more like a rallying call to the UK public than a call to action for the rest of Europe.
The UK press team displayed the ability to promote a UK TV show to a UK audience. What they didn’t do was spend the weeks and months leading up to Song Contest promoting the song around Europe, making it into a hit, getting the artist known, and the tune lodged in the memory of every Eurovision fan. If the BBC Press Team could do that, the chances are they would be working in the music industry.
And there’s our answer.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the BBC deliver the seven hours of Eurovision to the millions of UK viewers with skill and panache. It’s a big production and the social media buzz, viewing figures, and audience appreciation figures back up that view. I just feel the delegation team is focused more on the end product of the pictures on the screen than on the song.
So let’s split the duties.
However the BBC decide the current production team and delegation members, keep doing that. But these people are now labelled “Delegation / Production”. Anything to do with the actual entry from the United Kingdom, from short-listing and selection, through promotion and marketing, to performance and PR during Eurovision Week goes to a new team… “Delegation / Music” and whoever is the head of this has complete authority over the artist and their movements. Their only job is to win the Contest. Not to put on a TV show, not to keep half an eye on the BBC charter, not to keep the press at home happy… it is to win Eurovision
Immediately after the end of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg put me in front of a camera (along with a bundle of other UK fans) and asked if we were upset, and what should happen next. I rather forcefully suggested that the BBC needed strong leadership and if Simon Cowell has offered to do Eurovision for the BBC then they should take him up on his offer.
Having slept on it, I still think it’s a wonderful idea. If Sweden have their Christer Bjorkman and Germany have Stefan Raab, then the United Kingdom need to have a figurehead who understands music, who understands the industry, and has a huge address book.
Cowell might put too many noses out of joint at the BBC (I can’t help think that mentioning Eurovision is leverage for a better ITV deal…), and it would become ‘The Simon Cowell Show’, not a BBC production, but the principle of a musical leader, championing the song and artist, and nothing else is one that will deliver a result and should be implemented immediately.
To keep everything stable, we need someone known to, or who works for the BBC. We need someone who knows music. Not just Top 40 chart music, but is open to new music from around the country, all those quirky bands, performers, and solo artists that have huge underground followings, but who can command a stage and cope with the unique pressures a big gig can deliver. We need someone who is so immersed in music that he can plan the musical entry for 2013 now.
So what if the “Delegation / Production” team won’t sit down round a table until after Strictly Come Dancing ends in December? We need our Head of Music to be beating the drums now, to find the perfect performer, to get them into every single National Final show to expose them to Europe, to work industry contacts, to strong-arm the rest of the corporation into supporting the 2013 singer.
Sign that person up now, on a twelve month contract. Production can wait, the music can’t.
There is one man who ticks all the boxes. There is a man who knows the UK music scene like no other, who I believe would pick up the challenge of Eurovision and become our Raab. There is a man who can bring glory back to the United Kingdom. We just need to believe in him. He just needs to believe in Eurovision. He needs to believe in himself.
We need the man behind BBC Scotland’s New Music, bringing unsigned, underground, and under the radar music to listeners across the country, with great music and live sessions. Who bleeds new music. Who knows the music scene.
Vic Galloway, your country needs you… even if the rest of the Eurovision world has never heard of you.