The Eurovision Song Contest is supposed to be a non-political event and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – the body that oversees the Eurovision Song Contest – created a set of rules to let the contest remain in this way. The rules of the contest require that no lyrics, speeches or gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted, and no messages promoting any organisation, institution or political cause shall be allowed. These rules have been strengthened in the past.
The EBU has a special reference group which normally meets in mid-March of each year to consider entries. They carry the responsibility whether or not to censor a song. But judging what is political and what not is very subjective. Everyone has their own opinion about it. The reference group has measures in place to ensure the rules are upheld.
In the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 Ukraine sang a song called “1944”. It was widely interpreted as referring to Joseph Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Taters – which happened in the same year – and Russia’s more recent annexation of Crimea. Armenia also contested with a controversial song about the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire, an event recognised as genocide by many European countries but which is disputed by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Surprisingly both entries were allowed even though Eurovision’s rules explicitly say songs should not contain political lyrics.
One of the most high-profile songs to be removed from the competition was Georgia’s entry in 2009. The song was about a conflict in the region of South Ossetia, which is internationally recognised as being Georgia. Georgia tried to recapture it in 2008 but Russia responded with a massive invasion which killed hundreds of people. Apparently, the last two words of the song title spelled out the name of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. At least, that was the verdict of the judges and why it was thrown out. In contrast to Ukraine and Armenia Georgia was not that subtle.
Ukraine pulls out
Ukraine will not participate in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. Ukrainian singer Maruv was supposed to represent her country at the contest in Tel Aviv after topping a public vote on Saturday. What happened next is that Maruv refused to sign a contract with the Ukrainian broadcasting authority UA: PBC. The proposed contract included restrictions on performing in Russia. While Maruv was willing to do so, she felt like signing the contract would have made her a propagandist for the Kyiv government. She posted on Facebook: "I am a citizen of Ukraine, pay taxes and sincerely love Ukraine. But I am not ready to come up with slogans and turn my participation in the contest into a promotional activity for our politicians," and said that she is a musician and not a puppet for the political arena.
But this appears not to be the first problem in the Ukrainian music industry. There was more drama following an interview of two entrants, a twin duo named AnnaMaria who said something about Ukraine losing Crimea. Now there is a debate going on whether singers who have connections with Russia should represent Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest. For some the links with Russia are acceptable, for others it’s really unacceptable. According to an investigation that followed it was discovered that the majority of the finalists for the 2019 Eurovision selection for Ukraine had connections with Russia, which is not unusual. The problem, UA:PBC added, is "the connection of artists with an aggressor state with whom we are in the fifth year of military conflict." UA:PBC concluded: "Given the current situation, and following Ukrainian law on public broadcasting, as well as conditions of excessive politicisation of the national selection process, UA:PBC has decided to withdraw from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest."
Want to know more of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019? Have a look at the Eurovision 2019 odds and learn more about the contestants of this year. Who do you think will win?