It’s Known as Eurovision. So Why Is Australia A part of It?

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The confluence of outlandish costumes, soulful folks ballads and an ode to the good American author Edgar Allan Poe can solely imply that Eurovision, the world’s largest, gaudiest and, maybe, most eccentric music competitors is gracing our screens once more.

The occasion normally carries political undertones, and that has grow to be extra overt this 12 months, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looming massive over the proceedings. Eurovision is normally held within the nation that gained the earlier 12 months, however Liverpool, England, is internet hosting the competitors on behalf of final 12 months’s champion, Ukraine. Liverpool has included symbols of and tributes to Ukraine into its festivities, together with a memorial backyard. This 12 months’s Ukrainian entry, the pop group Tvorchi, is performing a music that it says was impressed by the bravery of its nation’s troopers.

Australia’s entry, the Western Australia progressive synth-metal band Voyager, has made it by to the finals, a lot to the delight of followers who both stayed up very late or woke very early to observe it stay, at 5 a.m. native time. (Unusual reality: Voyager’s lead singer is an immigration lawyer whom we interviewed final 12 months throughout the tennis star Novak Djokovic’s battle to get into the nation whereas unvaccinated in opposition to Covid for the Australian Open.) Voyager has quite a bit driving on its efficiency, given that is the final 12 months Australia is assured to compete in Eurovision.

Whereas Australia is just not the one non-European nation to compete in Eurovision — Israel made its debut in 1973 — it’s actually probably the most distant. Since Australia began taking part in 2015, followers and commentators alike have puzzled: Why does a rustic on the opposite facet of the world take part in what’s ostensibly a European music contest?

The rationale includes Australia’s migration historical past; the function that SBS, which broadcasts Eurovision, performs within the nationwide tradition; and a push by Eurovision to faucet into new international markets, stated Jess Carniel, a senior lecturer on the College of Southern Queensland and a Eurovision knowledgeable.

Australia’s invitation to take part in 2015 was meant as a one-off, in recognition of how fashionable the competition was in Australia, stated Dr. Carniel. “At the moment, Australia in all probability constituted one in every of largest non-European audiences,” she stated.

SBS, a government-funded broadcaster catering to multicultural and multilingual communities, has aired Eurovision in Australia since 1983, and the present first turned fashionable among the many communities of European migrants who had moved to Australia after World Battle II, she stated. Curiosity within the competitors additionally grew amongst migrants from non-European backgrounds who found it whereas watching the channel, she stated.

Later, curiosity within the competitors widened. Within the Nineteen Nineties, it turned a cult hit amongst younger individuals who tuned in to the channel — which was branding itself as “cool” and “cosmopolitan” — for its overseas motion pictures and tv reveals. And the competition’s reputation snowballed from there.

The opposite a part of the rationale for Australia’s involvement was that “we represented an ostensibly Western broadcaster in the midst of the Asia Pacific,” as Eurovision was pushing to faucet into new markets, together with the Asia Pacific, Dr. Carniel stated.

In 2016, after Australia participated within the competitors for a second time, SBS introduced that it secured the rights to develop an Asian model of Eurovision. It was whereas this contest was being developed that SBS was given, in 2018, a five-year assure that Australia would compete in Eurovision — a assure that expires after this 12 months’s occasion (the 2020 contest was canceled because of the pandemic).

However creating a brand new regional music competitors proved to be tougher than when Eurovision began in 1956. SBS introduced in 2021 that its plans for an Asian contest have been canceled — though a derivative competitors in america was held as a one-off occasion final 12 months.

By means of all of it, viewership has remained robust right here. And abroad, followers have progressively come to simply accept Australian participation in a European competitors, Dr. Carniel stated. “An enormous a part of that’s that we’ve taken it so severely — we’ve taken nice effort to ship high-quality artists we’re pleased with,” she stated.

That has helped painting Australia as “a younger, dynamic, progressive, artistic nation, and that’s an essential picture for us to have on the market,” she stated.

The various vary of contestants Australia has despatched — together with artists with migrant and Indigenous backgrounds — “disrupts a few of the stereotypical pictures that folks might need of Australia as blond, blue-eyed, Anglo,” she added.

Though it’s unclear if Australia will proceed taking part after this 12 months, Dr. Carniel hopes it’s going to.

“It has been a extremely incredible alternative for thus many Australian artists,” she stated. “And it’s not like Eurovision goes to go away from our screens.”

Now for this week’s information:


William Leslie Arnold, middle in striped shirt, in 1958. Credit score…The World-Herald

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