Why It's Finally Time To Say Good Bye to the Big Five...
Before the start of the 2016 ESC season, you wouldn't have found a greater advocate for keeping the big 5 than me. I was a massive Eurofan with a massively controversial Eurovision opinion. And while I find it funny to ridicule the ridiculous-ness of the atrocity from Armenia, or enrage at the love thrown towards Jamala, her inability to move and her Suus-esque wailing in the last 30 seconds of 1944, it's not cool or funny to be controversial about the big 5. That's why I stated my reasons and spoke little of it, on this blog and Twitter.
However, I have done a 180. No longer shall I dwindle in the shadows. It's time to face the reality:
The Big Five is the Big Eurovision Problem.
From this moment on I shall talk about the UK from a UK perspective. Perhaps someone from France, Germany, Italy and Spain can assist, but our overall success has been overall non-existent. That is if you exclude Italy, whose remarkable return to Eurovision has seen four top 10 placings, and surely a deserved top 10 from the new sweetheart of Eurovision, Francesca Michielin.
But it can surely be argued that Italy take it the most seriously of the top 5! They choose artists who have competed at the SanRemo Music Festival, which if you know your Eurovision, was actually the inspiration for the ESC. And since Italy returned, the only year they decided not to go through Sanremo was 2014, when poor Emma scored their lowest position in the history of the contest (ignoring of course the legendary Domenico Modugno's infamous nil pointe of 1966 - and that still is arguably the best nil pointe in the history of the contest, see: "The Best Nul Pointe").
So why don't the UK, France, Germany and Spain take it more seriously? Although I will now rephrase that to just the UK, there are similarities across these countries. One obvious reason is because we don't have to! We automatically qualify for the final so there is no need to take it as seriously as Russia or Sweden. But I'm not advocating begging at Adele's footsteps until she agrees, I'm just advocating a stronger national pride for the contest.
Ultimately, the BBC doesn't need to put on a lavish national final with us choosing between Chris Martin and Jessie J. The reason is because even if we sent someone the producers found busking on the street, the country will inevitably and despite how awkwardly, get behind them and wish them well. We will still throw Eurovision parties and the BBC will still dominate Saturday night TV ratings. Put quite simply, taking part in Eurovision is the easiest decision the BBC has to make - not only is it fifty times cheaper than an episode of Doctor Who, it will easily outstrip main rivals ITV.
A Semi Loss of Final Ratings
One of the biggest fears with Eurovision is that the big five contributors to the EBU will want to stop competing. And whether you want to hear it or not, that would damage the credibility and popularity of the contest - so you do want the UK, FR, DE, IT and ES in the competition.
The problem is, and I can only speak from a UK viewpoint, if we didn't make the final because we failed to qualify, there is a very, very strong possibility that the BBC would lose Saturday night ratings. That is the terrifying tragedy. If people in the UK stop watching Eurovision because we are not in it, the BBC then has to do one of two things.
1) Drop the show. It isn't valuable enough.
2) Try much, much harder to qualify the following year.
The outcome? They would have to try option 2. If the BBC even dared stop competing, you can bet that ITV would pick up the contest faster than you can say Boom-Bang-A-Bang. And there is no way in hell that the BBC would want ITV to beat them on Saturday night ratings with the Eurovision Song Contest. ITV would be clever enough to throw the kitchen sink at it, send some super group formed by a Simon Cowell talent show series, dominate ratings and try to win Eurovision. And then ITV wouldn't drop it, and the BBC would have lost.
Eurovision is Money
I'll leave here with some final thoughts. Unfortunately the Eurovision Song Contest is first and foremost about making money. If the EBU didn't think it made enough money it wouldn't run the competition. But the best thing about Eurovision is that it can grow with this crazy world of social media, and will become the most tweeted, most mentioned, most discussed thing, all over the world on Saturday evening. That's how it is growing exponentially at the moment, and advancing to make more and more money.
In order to make money, it doesn't have to be taken seriously by countries like the UK, because even if we send terrible and do terrible, people from the UK will still watch it. But the EBU is missing an absolutely golden reward - make the UK take it more seriously, and reap the rewards of potentially a big household name taking to the stage and pulling in viewers. It's a risk, but a hell of a risk to worth trying: with Australia now competing, and China and the US broadcasting, and JT interval-ling, it's a risk that's never been better to take. And if France win, could 2017 finally be the year to end the big 5 automatic qualification?
When the big four was introduced, it was because Germany, a country who'd been in it every year since dot were excluded. And that was wholly unfair at the time. But that was in 1998. We are now in 2016. Times have changed, the contest has evolved twice since the late 90s. Let's start making changes for the better because the contest is only growing and growing. The EBU just need to be brave enough.