Image Credit: Parlophone Records
*The opinions made in this article only reflect those of the writer; it is not representative of the views of the entire Phoenix team, the EBU, Eurovision or the BBC*
It’s a tale as old as time and has been prevalent across all national or international competitions. The idea that the UK, and in some contests, specifically England, should be doing well simply because they are British has always been an underlying, possibly not even intentional, thought whenever the desired results aren’t achieved.
To put it simply, the UK is not better than its European counterparts. To think that shows a high disregard to those countries – most specifically those in Eastern European regions, that are often treated as ‘lesser’ by British media – who just attempt to co-exist alongside all other nations. In this article, we’ll take a closer look into how this ideology is pushed on the public by the most popular media outlets.
Patriotism vs. Entitlement
Being patriotic or simply ‘proud’ of your country does not equate to being entitled. You’re allowed to feel pride in your country and to support them. When this crosses over into making absurd, and frankly incorrect or even offensive statements in order to tarnish other countries’ success, or to believe the rest of Europe think of nothing but what the political situation currently is in the UK, the problem begins.
To imply anyone simply having pride in their country’s entries is entitled is a fine line to walk, and one that isn’t correct. As an example, just as someone Irish supports Ireland because that’s their home country, or someone Italian supports Italy for the same reason, someone from the UK supporting the UK because it’s where they come from isn’t an alien concept. However, certain groups of UK “fans” or casual viewers (referred to as ‘locals’ by ESC fans) seem to find more fault, more problems, and more excuses for the consistent disappointing results, before admitting the songs just aren’t good enough.
Politics, Politics and More Politics
The concept that the UK is doing badly because of Brexit, or before that the Iraq War, is a narrative that’s always presented by the media. Who in Europe sits through 26 songs during the final, yet the only thing they’re thinking of is what is going on between the UK and EU? We’re talking about a contest that Israel won in 2018 – if people really cared about political or social issues when watching the contest, they wouldn’t have voted for ‘Toy’.
The idea Brexit has a huge impact on how we do in Eurovision is simply untrue. If Brexit was to blame, why did the UK do so badly in the period between 2003-2008, and again in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015? Why was the best UK result in the last 5 years in 2017, the first entrant after the UK voted to leave?
Could it just be the fact the songs they are entering just weren’t at all to a good enough standard to impress European voters? Is that a concept that is hard to understand?
From 2016-2019, the UK has sent songs about hope, coming together, and not giving up. So, what does the media take from this? That the UK is sending ‘subliminal’, pro-EU messages to Europe. ‘Never Give Up On You‘ has been dubbed ‘Never Give Up On EU” by some, ‘Storm‘ was about overcoming Brexit and the problems with it and ‘Bigger Than Us‘ is about communities uniting in hard times. UK media, especially the Pro-Brexit side, LOVE to push the narrative that the UK is sending these so-called ‘remainer’ anthems to the contest and then flopping because of it, as it allows them to push their narrative surrounding Brexit and how Europe hates us, as if to prove that it’s a “great” thing that we left.
A 2019 YouGov poll found that 52% of people polled wanted to withdraw from Eurovision, and 48% wanted to stay – an ironically close comparison to the results of the 2016 Brexit vote. Whilst this poll is completely biased, and cannot ever be considered to be too reliable or realistic due to the fact it doesn’t survey the opinions of every single person in the country, it does give you a glimpse into what a small population of the country thinks about Eurovision.
Popular TV Personalities and Their “Expert” Opinions
UK TV personality Lorraine Kelly has often come under fire by Eurovision fans for her comments about the contest, and considering she classes herself as a fan, and an expert on the contest, she still uses her public platforms to push the ‘political’ narrative. In 2019 on her morning show ‘Lorraine’ she stated:
‘I think it’s time to leave because it’s embarrassing […] I’ve just had enough of it – it’s too political and too silly’Lorraine Kelly
Let’s assess her comments for a moment and apply them to 2019. The argument that the contest is ‘too political’ is automatically void, as Russia managed to place third. Russia has historically been in news outlets across the world facing criticism over their political and social attitudes or positions. Azerbaijan, another country that has a historical record of human rights violations and political criticism tied to it managed to place 8th. The BBC even took a visit to Azerbaijan in 2012 to expose the problems with their attitudes towards hosting, and their performative way of trying to make Azerbaijan look like an accepting and perfect country when hosting ESC, despite the treatment of their people in Baku when building the Baku Crystal Hall.
Not to forget, the 2019 contest was hosted in Tel Aviv, situated in Israel, who’s widely documented, decades-long tensions with Palestine were rife when the contest was taking place. Why was it hosted there? Well, because Israel won in 2018. Is the contest ‘too political,’ or are the UK doing badly because the songs are not good enough? You cannot say ‘Bigger Than Us’ is on the same level as ‘Scream’, ‘Truth’ or ‘Toy’. The UK are arguably in a far better political situation than these countries despite the Brexit fiasco, so you cannot look at these results and come to the conclusion that politics is to blame.
At the same time, the EBU take any opportunity to declare the contest as a non-political event. Only this year did we see them use that excuse, and that Eurovision was about unity, to initially defend Russia’s participation despite the ongoing war in Ukraine. In 2014, when a Russian conflict with Ukraine was taking place, they still managed to place 7th. A year later, Ukraine withdrew due to the financial implications of the Donbas war, yet Russia still competed – with a song about peace and unity no less – and came 2nd. Therefore, despite strong negative reactions from the crowd to Russian performances and points in these years, viewers clearly voted on the song, otherwise, Russia would not have been successful. Taking this into account, to imply that Brexit or UK politics has an impact on how the United Kingdom do in the contest doesn’t make sense when you put it into context. It isn’t true.
Consistent Outdated Views On Eurovision
The contest being classed as “too silly” by Lorraine is another example of how badly the UK media tries to push the idea that the UK is “losing” despite having a strong music industry. This is mainly demonstrated currently by casual Eurovision viewers who think any winner of the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK girl band challenges should be representing the UK. Early 2021 was a hard time for Eurovision fans who had to constantly endure people consistently bringing up Drag Race’s “UK Hun?” (The United Kingdolls Version) in response to anyone speculating about our potential entry.
Newsflash for people who aren’t Eurovision fans: this is not 2008 anymore, and novelty songs or acts simply don’t cut it anymore. That’s not to say all drag acts are novelty, Conchita Wurst definitely wasn’t, but the song, and type of act presented on the Drag Race main stage would be viewed as exactly that at Eurovision, and would have never made any type of good impression – especially in 2021, an excellent year for Eurovision.
Lorraine’s comment in 2019 also made no sense, as there really were no entries in that year that appeared to be mocking the contest in any way. Of course, the standard varied, but there was nothing ‘silly’ about any song presented.
UK locals seem to think that the songs they class as ‘taking it seriously’ doing poorly in the contest as a sign that we need to give up. “If Europe hates us anyway let’s make a joke out of their competition” is an attitude that year on year is prevalent amongst non-fans, and is frankly embarrassing.
The BBC Push This Narrative Too
The BBC don’t even try and deter fans from thinking the contest is a ridiculous show full of wild and wacky entries that are ‘just so funny!’ They posted a tweet in February 2020 essentially making fun of other countries staging’s and songs. Is there not any self-awareness at the BBC? In 2013, they produced a show called ‘How To Win Eurovision’ which instead of showing examples, made jokes out of multiple countries entries (including the UK’s), and decided to paint Blue as a failure for coming 11th which, unbeknownst to them at the time, is the best UK result of the 2010s, and third-best UK result of this century.
Until you can provide good staging and entries, don’t start poking fun at other countries. Eurovision fans had to beg the BBC tirelessly to add pyrotechnics to the ‘Embers’ performance this year – that shouldn’t be happening.
There’s only so much fans can do to try and make the broadcaster listen, and change the perception of Eurovision in the UK. If you’re a Eurovision fan in the UK, you’re often treated with an attitude of ‘why would you ever want to be a fan of THAT? Europe hates us!’, and people just don’t want to listen because they’ve been fed over, and over again for years how much the UK is “disliked” by the BBC, the BBC’s commentators, and the media. The broadcaster and the media are the two biggest outlets, and when neither of them is approaching the show as a competition, where the music you send has to have merit, there’s never going to be a change. Even when the BBC do try – TAP being involved in 2022 should be a good sign – the media seems to build up an expectation that the song will never meet. Dua Lipa sending a song written by 1974 winners ABBA is never going to happen, and neither is sending Elton John. Just because these people have an affiliation with TAP, they’re not going to Eurovision. The media, however, runs with the story that they are, to inevitably build up anticipation for their articles predicting the downfall of the person who does represent the UK because they aren’t a big star.
What Will Happen In 2022?
TAP understand PR and have seemingly used this experience to try and remove the ‘we won’t listen to or like this song – it is for Eurovision!’ mindset instilled into casual UK viewer’s minds over decades. This year, the UK entry – ‘Space Man‘ by Sam Ryder – was released just over a week before the announcement of his participation on March 10th 2022, and was made ‘Tune Of The Week’ on BBC Radio 1 the week prior. The reaction to the song prior to its revelation as the UK’s entry has been positive, but we will only see if the tide begins to change in the coming weeks not only towards the song but towards Sam too.
Since the song has been revealed, it has been labelled as ‘Paint By Numbers’ by The Independent, and Huffington Post ran with the headline mentioning last years 0-point result. On both of these articles, as well as on social media, the reaction has once again been negative. Classic comments such as ‘Europe hate us’, ‘Another 0 points, it’s all political’ and ‘We could send *insert famous British singer* and we’d still come last’ have been popping up all over the place online. Sam doesn’t seem fazed though, and his fans specifically have been extremely positive with their responses. His announcement already has over a million views on TikTok, and his comments on there are flooded with support and well wishes. Scott Mills has called on the UK to change their attitude towards Eurovision and has asked for people to support the entry over the last week, so we will have to wait to find out if this attitude change happens. We don’t know how well Sam will do in Eurovision, but hopefully ‘Space Man’ will be a turning point not only for the UK as a country but for the UK media response too.
Until the attitude around Eurovision changes in the mainstream UK media outlets, the attitude of non-fans on the UK’s participation in the contest will not begin to improve. Will we see a change in perspective if TAP’s involvement creates a successful result? We’ll see, but right now we can only hope for a more positive future outlook.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!