Tuesday 24 July 2012

It's not about the money, money, money...

Oh dear. The cat is out of the bag. The BBC have revealed how much it cost for the UK to enter Eurovision this year. £310,000. The British media can always be trusted to report in a balanced manner of course. Hmm. The Daily Mail and The Mirror led with the "story" yesterday. You can almost hear the letters of complaint being written in haste to Auntie Beeb from Outraged of Tunbridge Wells. The Mirror even showed a deep analysis of the spending and divided this lump sum by the amount of television hours that the BBC had by screening the semi finals and grand finale. "The cost to licence fee payers works out at around £45,000-an-hour". Thank goodness that they're keeping watch! Funnily enough - they didn't report another fact, that it costs just 1.2 pence per licence payer. That doesn't sound as exciting as £45K does it?

Such coverage is yet another example of the cynical  and dismissive British attitude towards Eurovision.  Much was made of the fact that Engelbert Humperdinck finished in second last place. Does that mean that the amount spent and the value for money is only proportional to the UK placing on the scoreboard? That screams sore loser to me! Is the money really that much? Well since the articles in question do not provide a point of reference, most readers will probably have read them and been outraged at such vast amounts of money being spent in the midst of a global financial crisis. However the BBC are right, is IS extremely good value for money. A single episode of Dr Who is said to cost well over £1 million and just one hour of Strictly Come Dancing waltzes in at a whopping £370,000. Are there calls to cancel these shows? No. They are popular with viewers and so too is Eurovision. The Song Contest as a whole isn't cheap but it's international, primetime television so when it's broken down, like The Mirror so cleverly did, it is actually not so frivolous after all. 

Eurovision has also reflected a lot of the wider austerity going on in the rest of Europe. Long gone are the days of lavish parties and freebies paid for by national television stations. If countries do treat delegates to a party or a promo CD, the funding comes from sponsors and private donors, not the public purse. 2013 is rumoured to be on a smaller scale and the EBU stated in the 2012 press conference in Baku that the contest has become too large and too expensive. Should the BBC host Eurovision again I dare say that the costs will be scrutinised, just like they are with the Olympics. Of course this should be the case, they're a national broadcaster funded by the public. However, in the bigger picture of international, primetime broadcasting, these costs are not excessive. No broadcaster could afford to buy the amount of global airtime that hosting and taking part in Eurovision offers. It seems like it was yet another slow news day on Fleet Street and for the Daily Mail, yet another excuse to attack Auntie Beeb.

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