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Junior Eurovision’s Greatest Gift To The Song Contest Written by on November 24, 2020

With next year’s Eurovision Song Contest facing the unknown impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Ewan Spence lays out why Junior Eurovision is an important part of planning for Rotterdam 2021.

It all seemed pretty straightforward after Junior Eurovision 2019. Following Poland’s second victory in a row, the assumption from the Insight team on the ground was that we would be returning to Poland in 2020, and there was a good chance we would be heading to Warsaw.

2020 didn’t change that, but it pretty much changed everything else around Junior Eurovision.

The cancellation of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2020 in March was a necessity. With Rotterdam mere weeks away, there was no practical way to bring together the Song Contest on the ground, and while there were options on running remote broadcasts or other methods of voting on songs, the deadline was too short.

That the EBU and AVROTROS managed to bring together the various elements for ‘Europe Shine A Light’ was an achievement under the circumstances. Don’t forget that the broadcasters signed up to enter the Contest now had different concerns on their minds; public service broadcasting in the middle of a pandemic has an important role to play.

On the other hand, Junior Eurovision had time to prepare.

Things Have To Keep Changing

Anyone planning major events in 2020 and 2021 has to be well versed in different options, be flexible in the approach, and to keep in mind the best way to delver success. In terms of Junior Eurovision, that final deliverable – the TV show – will arrive on Sunday 29 November. Is it the Contest we expected as we left Poland last year? No. But it is a Contest.

The cliché of ‘the show must go on’ is clearly in play, but it has not been without casualties. The Contest has seen a number of broadcasters withdraw, with a number of them citing issues around the pandemic, including Albania’s RTSH, Australia’s ABC, Ireland’ TG4, Italy’s RAI Gulp, North Macedonia’s MRT, Portugal’s RTP, and Wales’ S4C. Once those decisions had been made, it’s very likely that the program budgets would have been reallocated to other areas – as a result the announcement of performing remotely did not lead to any of the withdrawn delegations returning to the show.

Hello Warsaw, Have You Received Our Attachment?

Unlike Rotterdam 2021 which at least has ‘Scenario A’ of a Song Contest that is relatively free of the burdens around the pandemic, Junior Eurovision takes place in the middle of the European winter, a fertile time of year for viruses. Was there a Junior Scenario A? Definitely, because the organisers inside the EBU and TVP will plan for everything, but it would have been very much a long shot.

The decision to go with a fully remote version of Junior Eurovision would have been an easy one to make. The majority of the delegations could stay in their home countries, recording their three minutes in their own studios and sending the video file to TVP for subsequent broadcast this Sunday. While some delegations did make their way the TVP studios in Warsaw to record their entires, these visits were staggered during October and November to preserve ‘COVID-19 bubbles’ around the delegations and the broadcasting team.

There’s also another reason for running Junior Eurovision as the ‘Remote Vision’ edition. It’s going to answer a lot of practical questions on what will be needed if Rotterdam 2021 also has to be run as a Remote Vision, be it for individual delegations under Scenario C, or all the delegations under Scenario D.

Junior Eurovision has been used to pilot a number of ideas in previous editions. Some have made their way to the adult Contest, some have been quietly put aside, while others have remained as unique features of Junior.

Running a Contest in a fully remote version will be one of Junior’s biggest gifts to the Adult Contest in a long time.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (facebook.com/ewanspence).

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