It’s Called Eurovision. So Why Is Australia Part of It?

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The confluence of outlandish costumes, soulful people 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 tune competitors is gracing our screens once more.

The occasion often carries political undertones, and that has turn into extra overt this yr, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looming giant over the proceedings. Eurovision is often held within the nation that gained the earlier yr, however Liverpool, England, is internet hosting the competitors on behalf of final yr’s champion, Ukraine. Liverpool has included symbols of and tributes to Ukraine into its festivities, together with a memorial backyard. This yr’s Ukrainian entry, the pop group Tvorchi, is performing a tune 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 look at it dwell, at 5 a.m. native time. (Unusual truth: Voyager’s lead singer is an immigration lawyer whom we interviewed final yr in the course of the tennis star Novak Djokovic’s battle to get into the nation whereas unvaccinated in opposition to Covid for the Australian Open.) Voyager has loads driving on its efficiency, given that is the final yr Australia is assured to compete in Eurovision.

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

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The explanation 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 world markets, mentioned Jess Carniel, a senior lecturer on the College of Southern Queensland and a Eurovision skilled.

Australia’s invitation to take part in 2015 was supposed as a one-off, in recognition of how well-liked the competition was in Australia, mentioned Dr. Carniel. “At the moment, Australia most likely constituted one in all largest non-European audiences,” she mentioned.

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

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

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

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 yr’s occasion (the 2020 contest was canceled because of the pandemic).

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However creating a brand new regional tune 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 the USA was held as a one-off occasion final yr.

By all of it, viewership has remained robust right here. And abroad, followers have regularly come to just accept Australian participation in a European competitors, Dr. Carniel mentioned. “A giant a part of that’s that we’ve taken it so severely — we’ve taken nice effort to ship high-quality artists we’re happy with,” she mentioned.

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

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

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

“It has been a very improbable alternative for therefore many Australian artists,” she mentioned. “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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