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Myths, Legends, And Questions: How To Talk To The British About Eurovision Written by on February 27, 2020 | 8 Comments

As the BBC announces their Eurovision act, Ellie Chalkley answers the top twelve burning issues around the United Kingdom at the Song Contest.

They say “It’s all politics, everyone votes for their neighbours.”

Not really. Neighbouring countries tend to share music industries and cultural similarities, so you can see why they’d vote for each other’s songs. There are a few longstanding pairs, but given that the 2010s had margins of victory between 23 and 143 points, it’s not enormously significant in the overall result. You need to get points from all over Europe to win the contest – no-one has that many neighbours.

They say “Everyone hates us.”

Put down your Daily Mail and tune into Reality FM. Everyone does not hate the United Kingdom. If anything, everyone is puzzled, baffled and confused by the country’s attitude to the outside world and the BBC’s inability to fully engage with the local music industry. Also, if Israel can win and Russia regularly picked up top 10 results, the reputation of your state as a member of the international community does not matter a bit.

They say “I thought we’d left Europe.”

This is where roll your eyes… The Eurovision Song Contest is organised by the European Broadcast Union which is a club for broadcasters, where they share broadcast technology and knowhow. Eurovision is just a way for these broadcasters to work together to produce joint content of major events – sports, culture, natural disasters, breaking news. The Song Contest uses the Eurovision TV network to bring everyone together for a party.

None of these things have anything to do with the European Union. Just like English and Scottish football clubs continue to play in the UEFA Champion’s League (with perhaps one notable exception), the BBC will continue to compete in the EBU’s Eurovision Song Contest.

And that’s the short version. Now do you want the long version?

They say “I love how camp and cheesy it is.”

Yes, that song about the genocide of the Crimean Tatars sure was cheesy and aye, Salvador Sobral definitely embraced the spirit of camp.

And then you look deep into their eyes, press play on ‘Fuego‘ and commence to death drop.

They say “It’s all fixed.”

After some accusations of impropriety in the televote in the noughties, it genuinely seems like we’re getting reasonable results. There have been some high profile arse-ups in the jury voting system, and there’s a couple of issues that we’ll never solve (San Marino’s televote, Azerbaijan and Armenia, betting favourites never giving each other jury points) but the results of the main show in May are on the level.

They say “I loved Wogan’s commentary.”

You know, at the time I thought it was fine but looking back at it, there was a lot of really terrible stuff he said. I don’t think he loved Eurovision anymore by the end, it was a bit sad.

They say “I’m a mega fan of Eurovision, I watch it every year. It’s my favourite Saturday of the year.”

I am so glad you enjoy it! Have you tried watching the Semi Finals? They’re fun too.

They say “We wouldn’t win even if we sent Adele”

It’s sadly unlikely that we’ll ever get to test that theory out. The way that the BBC operates means that it is unable to promote commercial products like songs (this Vice article is a seriously good explanation of why) and the BBC is also very limited in how it can spend money outside the UK, which is where you’ve got to promote the song in order to get votes for it at Eurovision.

It also takes approximately three months out of your year to represent a country at Eurovision – the biggest stars in UK pop music have song drops, tours and promos scheduled 18 months to 2 years in advance and Eurovision simply won’t fit in.

The BBC’s partnership with TaP Music is likely to help with this, because TaP can spend money on promotion without restriction and they’ve got the ability to help build Eurovision into the schedule of an artist.

The other reason why Adele wouldn’t be representing the UK at Eurovision is because of the poisonous attitude of much the UK press towards the Song Contest as a whole and UK representatives in particular. She already gets pilloried for existing as a woman with a weight (whether her weight increases or decreases) and love life (and also for demanding privacy in her love life) so why on earth would she volunteer for a position where so many people would be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of her failure?

They say “Yes, but it’s not real music is it?”

I’ve been on some of the most extreme musical adventures of my life thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest. The best part of the Contest is the extraordinary variety, especially in the early qualifying stages. I’ve seen everything from extreme Estonian noise punk to mystic Latvian cellos, from cheeky Icelandic art collectives to Armenian pop goddesses, from anti-facsist Hungarian metallers, to Ukrainian hip hop about contemporary art. It’s great for helping you get an idea of what the music scene is like outside the three countries that get written about in Mojo and Q.

They say “It costs a fortune, why are we spending all this money?”

The entire Eurovision process costs the BBC about half as much as one episode of Strictly. It is astonishingly good value for mony.

They say “We always get nul points.”

Twice is not always.

In over sixty years of Eurovision, the UK has failed to score only twice. It’s actually a very rare occurrence for any country to score nul points – since the modern voting system was introduced in 1976, only 18 countries have scored a big fat zero. The UK picked up that honour for the first time in 2003 (have a listen and see if you agree with the televoters).

Yes, in 2019 and 2021 the United Kingdom finished in last place, but that does not mean Michael Rice and James Newman had the worst songs. With points only awarded to the top ten songs in each country, songs that are not the absolute best can easily be put in eleventh or twelfth place by a country and pick up no points.

They say “The UK song won’t win so what’s the point in watching this year?”

There are 40 countries in the 2022 show. Give the official album a listen when it comes out and see if there’s one that takes your fancy. You don’t have to support the country where you happened to be born. Is this the year that you discover your love of Estonian pop music? Maybe you’ll wrap yourself in the Sammarinese flag because their song makes your heart beat a little faster. Maybe you’ll decide to be Belgian for a bit. Go wild.

About The Author: Ellie Chalkley

Ellie Chalkley is an all-round music, media and culture enthusiast and citizen of the internet. As an overly analytical pop fan and general knowledge hoarder she finds the Eurovision Song Contest bubble to be her natural home. She comments gnomically and statistically on Eurovision matters at @ellie_made.

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8 responses to “Myths, Legends, And Questions: How To Talk To The British About Eurovision”

  1. Marc says:

    Brilliant from Ellie. I will laminate this and have it by my side when I do battle in the comments columns of and Which have been about as bad as one another today.

  2. Dave Hope says:

    What an amazing article. I knew a lot of the miss were untrue but having the figures for the cost of an episode is fantastic. Also the point about the UEFA competition is also worth remembering. In fact that’s so simple why didn’t I think of it!?

  3. James says:

    The UEFA comparison is actually what I used while I was in the middle of an argument over someone with a similar defeatist attitude over the UK’s Eurovision chances recently, and they’re not even British.

    The British press are the worst of their kind. I don’t know how they even came to exist as a toxic parasite in British journalism.

  4. Fab article!
    I have written a blog posting on what I have learned from Eurovision – it was written for a different audience – hence Eurovision is not mentioned until about a quarter of the way into the blog – but this is one way I am talking to other Brits about the ESC!!

  5. markdowd1959 says:

    2003 was definitely a merited fat ZERO. Most out of tune effort ever and also 2019: good singer, drab song. I think the measly televotes for 2016/2017 do lend some substance to the view that UK gets a raw deal with the Euro public, especially as Lucie Jones sang brilliantly and for once, the staging was on point. We’ll see this year. The first real post-Brexit contest. Good luck James!!

  6. Eurojock says:

    Very useful list of responses to the nonsense spouted about Eurovision at this time of year. I’ve actually used the one about the true cost of Eurovision on a work colleague in the past. Mind you, last year he agreed to review the 10 songs chosen for our own workplace lockdown Eurovision Song Contest, so I’m gradually winning him over.

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