So Germany won Eurovision, and the United Kingdom are marooned at the bottom of the table. How can we recover from last place?
Decide if you want to try again
This is actually a lot easier than it sounds. The Eurovision Song Contest fulfils a lot of the charter requirements for the BBC. The BBC does have to pay part of the licence fee to the European Broadcasting Union (and the EBU part finances the Contest), but that cost, and the Eurovision budget for the year, is less than three hours of prime time Saturday night television (and another four hours on BBC 3).
It’s cost-effective, it meets the charter requirements, and while this year saw a drop in viewing figures, in the years when we send a good song that’s generally reflected in a larger audience.
Look in the mirror and say “the problem is us”
Don’t hide behind the myth of political voting deciding the contest. Germany is not in any acknowledged blocs of voting and the idea that the public decided to support Germany because they might bail out the economy deserves a place in a cheap cabaret stand-up show, not in a sensible discussion.
We failed because the song we put on stage was rubbish
Josh did the best he could with the material. His performance came across well on TV (but it was no Greece), but the song was neutered at birth. Partly because of the choice of parents, but also because having to write a generic song that worked with a male singer, or a female, or a duo, or a duet, or a group just so there could be a public vote does not translate to a song that’s going to win a song contest.
The BBC compromised the song long before Josh was selected to be the plucky Brit standing alone on the fjords of this Norwegian Expedition.
Where was the promotion in the countries that could vote for us? It’s great Josh got so many interviews on BBC local radio and the UK national press but was that more to convince the UK that the BBC was doing something, rather than actually do something like getting him in the National Finals of other countries?
In 2009, Jade and her record company helped out with promotion across Europe. Even though the BBC was working solo for 2010, they had a blueprint of what had worked last year. Which drawer had it been left in?
Don’t coast to a song, make a decision and be proactive.
While the Eurovision Song Contest would like the songs and performers to be decided by a public vote in a national final, it’s not a hard and fast rule. Israel this year chose Harel Skaat as their singer, and then presented a choice of songs to the TV viewers to vote on.
The BBC needs someone the country can get behind, someone that provides a good story to promote, and someone who can handle an arena of 16,000 or more. That’s not a talent show winner. Yes, there is the occasional success, such as Germany’s Lena this year, but for every Leona Lewis there are countless Steve Brooksteins.
Turkey took the money normally spent on a national final, handed it to rockers maNga and essentially said “write a song to make us proud.” maNga presented three songs to TRT (the Turkish broadcaster) and the chosen song, “We Could Be The Same” came second.
If they were to ask, I would push the BBC to choose the team to produce and write the song immediately. Management know the exact reasons why Xenomania pulled back from working on the Contest in 2010 - if the rumours of falling out over Radio 1 airplay are true then they need to get together in a room and sort out an approach over all the BBC resources and sort out the internal politics.
Whoever you get, give them what they need, and ask for four songs to be ready for a National Final in January. Don’t go for a talent search - anyone still entering these has probably had multiple attempts at Britain’s Got Talent, The X-Factor and previous Eurovision searches. If you’ve got a solid backroom team, ask them to get the singer.
Maybe you should consider dropping the National Final, and instead do a three part documentary on the preparation for Eurovision. It could be structured to be event television throughout the year, as happened with David Tennant’s specials for Doctor Who — incidentally, of course, another long-running franchise that used to be treated like a punch line in a joke.
You know you’ll have a decent song to take to Germany, a decent performer to sing, and you can focus on getting the PR on other National Finals around Europe and prove to the rest of the continent you are taking the contest seriously. If you do, we will see a respectable result. Just as we did with Jade.
Realise you are starting from scratch
After the 2008 contest I wrote that the BBC needed to build up respect around Europe:
The BBC must work to make Eurovision palatable to professional songwriters and artists again. For 2009, it needs to make a conscious effort to clean the Eurovision name.
They managed that with Andrew Lloyd Webber, and had a good platform to build on for 2010. The decision to put Pete Waterman on it means that the credibility has been destroyed, and as a country we need to start again.
So do what you need to do to get a credible song and performer in the contest for 2011 and start the process all over again. Use the breadth of the BBC if you have to, but get them on board early; cleanse the brand (again) for professional musicians; and get everything lined up for an Olympian effort in 2012 to take up back into the Top Ten of the results table.
The fans felt you didn’t take it seriously this year. The rest of the continent felt the same. Only the BBC knows if this is truly the case, but if it looks like a duck, sings like a duck, it probably gets the same number of votes as a duck.
Look back, see what went wrong… and don’t do it again. You can make us proud to fly the flag at Eurovision once again.