Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s statistical map - our first look this year at how the school of ‘17 are faring on Youtube. As in previous years, we’ll be looking at the videos uploaded on the official Eurovision YT page and, over the next few months, tracking the amount of views and proportion of likes to dislikes they get, the latter of which we’ll be focusing on today.
The percentage of viewers on any given video who bother to leave a like - or dislike - tends to be quite small. So far this year, the average percentage of viewers who reacted is only 2.6% - with the most reacted to video, that of Spain, only reaching 6.3% reactions-to-views - but despite this, for the past 5 years, the proportion of likes has often served as one of a few good indicators of a song’s level of success at the contest or not. Last year, all of the 5 most “liked” songs ended up in the final, with Australia, Bulgaria and France being particularly successful; whilst amongst the 5 most disliked tracks, four crashed out (San Marino, Switzerland, Albania and Slovenia) with only one of the five, Sweden, doing well.
So, what of this year’s selection? For the second year running, Bulgaria are top of the likes list with a whopping 93.5% of their video’s reactors leaving likes rather than dislikes. They are joined by two nations who were on the other side of the scoreboard for most of last season - Switzerland with 93% likes, far outshining its neighbours, and Belarus, by far the most liked ex-USSR country’s entry this year to date, with 92% likes. The top 5 is rounded out with a warmly-received British revamp, netting the UK 89.4% likes, almost 10% more than Joe & Jake managed at their best on the site last year, whilst Macedonia have the same proportion of likes as them, a marked improvement on the 74% the underrated Kaliopi did at best with Dona.
Wherever there are winners, there are also losers, and particularly ignominy goes to the bottom 5, the only 5 nations who have a like-dislike ratio of 60% or less. Georgia and Spain, who recently had more dislikes than likes, have improved their ratio slightly recently and are now no longer under 50% likes. Their comrades in the bottom 5 are not so lucky in avoiding the fate of being mostly “disliked” by reactors: the none-so-subtle Montenegrin offering (48.6% likes), the public-overruling jury’s choice in Slovenia (45.7% likes) and the aurally challenging Lithuanian effort (45.3% likes).
Most songs tend to garner more and more likes, and improve their like-dislike ratio, the closer the contest gets - perhaps because of hardcore fans “getting used to” the songs; perhaps because casual fans start checking out songs and have a different idea on what is good from the year’s pick; perhaps because more nationalistic-minded folks get involved to like their nation’s status. It will be intriguing to track how the likes proportion changes over the next few months - I wonder whether any of our current top 5 by likes stands a chance at grabbing a win in Kiev?
The media are hyping like crazy here in Russia and it’s just sad. I’m half Russian and half Ukrainian, and it hurts me to look at all that rivalry. Now the hostility between our countries is going to grow even bigger. Just… what the hell are we all doing?
This show was created to unite Europe after the war and now we’re fighting because of it. Well, not exactly, the problem is about the laws against the people who visited the Crimea which is an occupied territory. Still, the contestant was banned. I can’t stop thinking about Julia and how upset she’s going to be. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of her song I’d like to support her.
It’s rather sad to think about it. Politics aside, let us people simply enjoy the music without looking for someone’s throat to cut.
Okay,geniuses,let me tell you this. Ya’ll folks who never been in Russia/Crimea/Ukraine think you know best,so let me clear it up: my mother was born in Crimea,Sivastopol in 1976 (if you don’t know,it was all called The Soviet Union back then). in 1991 it became a part of Ukraine. it was basically given as a gift to ukraine. the people who lived back then in crimea (my mom was one of them) has suffured from lack of electricity and water that the ukrainian goverment has been shutting down once in a while to save up some resources and money. They had NOTHING back then. In 1999 my mom,dad and grandma moved to Israel because my mom was terrefied of giving birth to me in Ukranian Crimea and wanted to save my grandma who later died of cancer.
2014 Crimea came back to Russia after a series of polls has stated that most of the Crimean citizens would like to become a part of Russia again. My family was thrilled. The ones that decided to stay there and the ones that imigrated to other countries. My mom who missed her home country so much over the years for the first time ever offered me to travel with her to Crimea.
STOP labeling my family’s unfortune. Stop using is as a part of your propoganda when you have nothing to do with it.When you don’t even understand it.
All facts asaid,remember when Eurovision was a fun,non political singing contest that was meant to pull all the countries closer? What the fuck is going on then? Why and when did it became all about politics? I don’t even watch the news because I can’t stand all this political nonsense,now I can’t watch Eurovision for the same reason.
Lads,you fucked it up big time.This contest is bringing more anger and hatred than anything.
I feel that both sides are being shady here, on one hand you’ve got Russia selecting an artist that has broken Ukrainian law and Yulia herself accepting it knowing that’s she’s broken the law. I know that Eurovision and politics should be kept as separate as possible but let’s be honest, the EBU cannot operate above or outside the law (idk where y'all are getting the idea that they can) so in that aspect they have no choice.
Now on the other hand, you’ve got the other side playing dirty too as they’ve had plenty of time to issue a list of all banned artists/people/celebs whatever and they had plenty of time to make that available. Leaving it to the literal last minute so that Russia will have to either frantically pick another artist or withdraw entirely is obviously shady and could be an attempt to just not have Russia in the contest this year which yes, I will agree is unfair.
TLDR; both sides are shady af and this is a tricky situation but lbr this was never gonna be settled in the easiest way
We exist in an ever obtenebrating world. Right wing parties and governments are sowing fear, distrust, and violence across the planet, while voracious appetites of western economies continue to pillage what resources are left. Is it any wonder that the shiny veneer of Europe’s longest running peace project is beginning to crack at its edges?
I suppose I should back up for the folks just starting to take a seat in this fandom.
Eurovision began in 1956 as a way to cement cultural ties between allied countries in western Europe just as the Cold War was starting to heat up. Not to be outdone, the USSR engaged in a similar artistic contest (Intervision) between its members and client states. Participation in Eurovision expanded as more economies began to get back on their feet after centuries of ongoing military and financial conflict. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the contest has granted exponential growth.
And that is Eurovision’s ultimate testament.
Europe is a continent that has experienced constant armed conflict for over a thousand years. Apart from civil unrest, and minor skirmishes (such as Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus), there hasn’t been a major conflict here since the Soviet annexation of Czechoslovakia (now known as the two nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia). This is significant.
Europe after World War Two was a place that was dangerous to walk at night; unemployment was sky high, infrastructure was so damaged that a special bank was set up by America, Canada and the United Kingdom to fund reconstruction projects, and starvation was a real threat in Germany, Russia, France and Italy. So ten years later what happens?
The heads of broadcasters from a handful of allied nations got together and thought up Eurovision. A pop culture contest that would fund itself through member contributions and boost international sales of 8mm singles.
And on its face the project seems ridiculous. To put it in American terms; it would be like President Grant suggesting a poetry contest between the newly reconstructed United States. Ten years on, we were still bitterly divided after a major conflict, an assassination, and a peace process that left some economies indebted to others.
In our own context this project would have been laughable. But somehow the organization that would become the European Broadcasting Union was forward thinking enough to know that entertainment was going to be a growth industry, and that a friendly competition amongst friends could provide an outlet for nations that haven’t gotten along since… forever. And at the same time make money. And the only constraint? Leave the politics at home. No overtly political lyrics may appear at the contest, in any language.
Then, forty years later, they would welcome to the fold frenemies with nuclear weapons pointed at their cities. That kind of good faith is at once admirable and mind boggling.
So, where are the fraying edges?
Why is the contest failing after sixty two years?
The short answer is that Europe isn’t alone in the world any longer, and this project has relied upon the music competition being isolated from its political contexts.
In their defense, the progenitors of the contest could not have foreseen a twenty four hour news cycle, instant access to information, and a move towards proxy conflict amongst member nation-states.
This year, all of these monkey wrenches are in play, and most prominently in the country which is hosting this year’s contest; Ukraine. Less so, in a country that has opted to not join this year; Turkey. And more interestingly in a country that has returned this year, Romania.
Each of these countries are interacting with the contest in unique ways that speak to the project’s ultimate undermining and eventual demise.
Ukraine has existed in a state of political schizophrenia since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then political figures have risen on populist outcries for more open or more closed economies so often it is difficult to keep track. Crony capitalism has directly led it to its most recent iteration, the Euro-Maidan. This political movement sparked a revolution that saw the overthrow of a Russian backed Prime Minister, and the reformation of the government as a whole. At the heart of this conflict are loan obligations (either to the European Central Bank, or to Moscow) and access to vital resources (namely, coal and natural gas pipelines).
A unity parliament seized power in the summer of 2014, which served as the impetus for Russia annexing the Crimean Peninsula, and the launch of a proxy war with the new government in its eastern provinces that is ongoing to this day.
The current government is now on track to join the European Union, having recently applied for inclusion in certain treaties with the EU. And it paid a heavy price for the privilege. And ultimately it was these critical events in 2014 that have directly led to the overall political situation the contest currently finds itself.
If these events had not occurred, an Austrian drag queen probably would have gone unnoticed in the 2014 contest. Europe didn’t vote for Conchita Wurst out of a genuine appreciation for her art, which is sad, because she’s fierce. It clearly wanted to stick it to a country that has both bullied its neighbors and had recently launched anti-LGBT policies that had driven violence against this persecuted minority within its borders. Conchita’s wasn’t a political song, but because of some of the still backwards values of certain member states of the EBU, and other member states who were eager to prove a point, her queer identity was made political.
Then, last year in Stockholm, Jamala, a Crimean Tatar who has been exiled from her home since she left to join the revolution in Kiev, won the contest.
Some countries cried foul. Her song was overtly political. And audiences voted for her to once again show up a political enemy. And they aren’t wrong. Her song was about the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatar’s by the Red Army towards the end of World War Two. And the timeliness of it can’t be discounted. The current socio-political situation in Crimea is almost impossible to gauge. But reports that have gotten out of the Russian army blockades is one of violent suppression of the Crimean Tatar population.
Eurovision 2014 and 2016 have proven prima facie that the contest has been corrupted by politics. And it’s only a matter of time before certain countries (Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan) quit the contest in protest. But what can the EBU do? The rule is an important one, it helps maintain the public’s focus on songwriting and pop music and public spectacle. And it may ultimately lead to several former Soviet states quitting the contest. Maybe even reviving Intervision. Which isn’t far fetched (there has been interest within Russia and central Asian states to do just that since 2014).
Resources, physical and financial, are also at the core of why one country isn’t showing up in Kiev this year. But regional and global politics are also playing out across Turkey in ways that the country hasn’t seen since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But that only tells part of the story. It is also a conflict between the right wing party that currently rules Turkey, and the liberalizing influence they claim the contest has on the rest of Europe.
Turkey’s participation has been a welcome sight at Eurovision since their debut in 1975, providing viewing audiences with music that has an unabashed MIddle Eastern flair. Racism towards Middle Eastern immigrants has been a hallmark of Europe in the past several decades, and Turkish families living in France, Germany and elsewhere in the EU have borne the brunt of this hatred and ignorance. It’s the presence of a large diaspora beyond its borders that tends to throw the traditional Eurovision voting blocs into a little chaos. This plays out with Germany frequently rewarding twelve points to Turkey whenever they participate.
But the last several years has seen Turkish society go into unpredictable waters. Here’s the shortlist; the civil unrest brought about by resistance to an authoritarian ruler, an attempted military coup of said ruler, a devastating civil conflict just across its southern frontier in which it is embroiled by playing host to American air forces, reacting to a resulting influx of Syrian refugees that has earned it little goodwill amongst EU countries that had once courted it for entry, and a resurgence of tensions with Kurdish rebels in the east (which has prompted the idea of building a border wall from the Black Sea to Iraq).
It is little wonder the Turkish government has decided against expending precious capital on participating in the contest, and perhaps drawing unwanted attention to itself should it win. But on the surface it claims that Eurovision is gay. Really gay. And that the contest is at odds with moral values of Islam and the party that largely controls political discourse in the country. I find this to be a weak argument, and pulling apart press releases and interviews, has revealed that the change in the voting system in 2009 saw Turkey not make it to the final for the first time in a long time. Their state run broadcaster took offense, so they packed up their toys and went home.
However, another more interesting wrinkle in Turkey’s geo-political position are rising tensions with Russia. And, it is again, diplomatic and political conflict with a neighbor that is going to see Eurovision politicized.
With Russia reclaiming a more prominent naval footing in the Black Sea, Turkey is understandably nervous. Then there has been the recent re-deployment of missile launch systems on Russia’s western frontier. And some suspect Crimea is playing a key role, although exact intel on missile placement has not been made public.
Since the Ottoman Empire, international relations in the region has relied on one very important rule: Turkey doesn’t mess with Russia without the help of a larger power. And with political events unfolding in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States, in ways unfavorable to direct diplomatic confrontation, it is unlikely Turkey will resist drawing further in on itself.
It is this retreat from the contest that I fear may spread. Amid growing political and economic pressures, both domestic and international, the need to show yourself on a world stage may diminish. We may easily see the contest shrink further within the next few years for this very reason.
Mostly, I believe that the contest will shrink due to economics. And Romania provides an unsettling example of neo-liberal economics influencing Eurovision in a way that is anything but apolitical.
Romania’s expulsion from the contest last year was sudden, and a total surprise. They had totalled over sixteen million Swiss Francs (~16m USD) in debt for unpaid licensing fees to the European Broadcasting Union, and they came to collect in the eleventh hour. Romania’s song had already been included on the 2016 edition soundtrack, but they were banned from participating in Malmo that year. Which was a shame, given that they had already invested in the song, and a stage show featuring a performer with gigantism. But it turns out the Union wasn’t as large a villain as I had thought at the time.
Assholes, for certain, but hardly villains. But nonetheless, the EBU had politicized participation in the contest itself.
The EBU had been trying for over two years to settle the debt the former soviet bloc country had on their books. Romania had been warned of possible consequences. And all attempts by the EBU to resolve the conflict had gone ignored by their national broadcaster, Televiziuena Romana (TVR). The action they would eventually take was drastic, and its timing proved devastating. Much like the monied powers that prop up the European Central Bank had done to Greece, they had made a power play and it worked.
Just as surprising was news of Romania’s return this year. What changed? They didn’t pay back the money. They had merely entered into an agreement to repay the money over time.
Turns out that TVR had been thoroughly mismanaged. Its board and management are selected by parliament. Its funding is secured by license fees for owners of television sets, grants from the federal budget, and revenue from advertisers. And in a post-communist country it is largely insulated from both public outcry and political interference.
And therefore, it stagnated. It got in over its own head in the form of Eurovision and FIFA World Cup fees, and over the decades since independence accrued more debt than it could feasibly payback. And it was staffed by people who had no idea what they were doing.
The entire organization was privately restructured last year, and few details have emerged on how that went.
The fact they were able to come back from all of this is nothing short of incredible. And with an entry that is so unexpected, it might just win (Watch it.)
But this debt crisis at TVR might never have happened had Romania had both credible leadership and debt structuring that hadn’t brought ruin to its economy since independence. The coutnry has stumbled from one economic upheaval to another, amid a mass exodus of skilled labor. Currently, there are over three million Romanian expats living throughout the EU, trying to make a better life for their families back in Romania, or in their newly adopted homelands.
The influx of economic refugees has fueled right wing extremism throughout western Europe, and saw British people vote to leave the union. France will soon elect a new president, and the extreme right candidate Marine Le Pen, is doing quite well for herself. But will she and her party do well for the diverse society that France has become? That’s a question many expats are asking.
Romania is stuck inside an economic crucible that will only get worse if candidates like Le Pen acquire power. Remittances will disappear as Romanians without firm holds on citizenship in their new homes are forced out. Skilled labor will be returning to a market that can’t sustain them. And already scarce social safety nets will be further taxed.
Tellingly, Romania is not part of the European Union. And with the way they have been treated I doubt they ever will be; even if Brussels pulls out the chair and offers them the good scotch.
These are the kinds of crises that Eurovision was not built to withstand. And they just seem to keep on coming. The politics of centuries of ethnic strife, economic exploitation that continues into the postmodern era, and geo-political forces that threaten peace on the continent could all combine to end Eurovision.
Ultimately, the contest is in crisis, because Europe is.
And indeed this very morning, we awoke to the news that Ukraine has barred the Russian singer, Julia Samoylova, from entering Ukraine, effectively expelling Russia from this year’s contest. Ostensibly, Julia played a show in occupied Crimea in 2015, which goes against a law Ukraine had passed last year. Russia has responded with a boycott. Not just of this year’s Eurovision, but of all future participation if this isn’t resolved in their favor. Some are arguing that this was Russia’s aim all along.
If they exit the contest, its allies (Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) won’t be far behind.
Hidden in this story are inklings that the contest this year is in jeopardy. It is behind schedule, over budget, and the newly reformed Ukrainian broadcaster has had a mass exodus of management executives. As early as December, there were threats by the EBU of Ukraine losing the contest.
I implore all of you reading this to watch Eurovision this year.