On Thursday Croatia’s state broadcaster HRT announced its withdrawal from the Eurovision Song Contest. Officials cited financial concerns and the string of poor results in recent years. It is still unknown how much Eurovision actually costs them and how bad they view ‘the damage’. The silver lining is that HRT will use their hiatus to find a great performer with a song that will reach a higher position. Let’s just hope it will be worth the wait.
Several people who have been involved in Dora, the Croatian national selection, were shocked by the news. Ksenija Urlicic, HRT’s former entertainment editor under whom Croatia achieved its best result to date, told 24Sata that she was saddened by the decision. “While I was leading the project, Dora and Eurovision wasn’t costly. We returned more money than we invested,” she said. She added that the artist’s placement doesn’t always come down to the musicians, but rather to the bad decisions of the people who organize and promote the artists.
“I’m surprised with the decision of HRT’s director Goran Radman because he was the one who hosted Eurovision in Zagreb. I can only sit down and cry. The [best] song can not be chosen by someone in the editorial chair. This is nonsense. That job should be left to those in the trade. I do not believe that money is the reason for pause because I know from experience that the more you invest, the more it gets,” Urlicic said.
But Elizabeth Homsi, the head of HRT’s entertainment program until last year, has said that financial concerns started long before she oversaw the the Eurovision Song Contest, suggesting there major gaps in HRT’s budget. And Velimir Duretic, HRT’s editor who sent Klapa s mora to the competition this year, has said that he is not at all interested in the spectacle, which he called a trifle.
“There is always someone calculating and giving votes to each other. Well, that was hilarious,” he says, adding that Eurovision this year didn’t cost HRT too much as a part of the money was given by Tourist board.
EuroFest Croatia, an association that brings together Eurovision fans in the country, issued a mournful statement.
Eurovision is one of the first international competitions where an independent Croatia appeared and thus promoted the Croatian language, culture and, most importantly in this case, a musical opus. Through the competition, Croatian tourist attractions and sights had been promoted, which certainly contributed to European knowledge of Croatia.
We are aware of the financial situation, not only in Croatia, but also in Europe, where countries are struggling with the recession and where you should look out for any financial cost. We are also aware of the relatively bad loans Croatian representatives achieved in recent years. We express the hope that this is still only a temporary withdrawal.
By participating in the Eurovision Song Contest the constant interest was held by Croatian viewers and fans, and in the case of similar countries, shows that the non-participation makes the interest smaller.
Because of this and because of the interest of entertainment content of HRT, we are expressing hope that viewers will see Croatia there in 2015. This great international event aims to bring all European citizens and promote multiculturalism, ” stands in the official press release.
Former participants and composers blame delegation
Goran Karan, who represented the country at Eurovision 2000 with the song ‘Kad andeli zaspu’, told Index.hr that HRT’s decision to withdaw is wrong.
“Eurovision has brought us a lot of money and it always attracted a lot of tourists. If we won’t represent our country with song, then we can freely close all the football clubs like Dinamo and Hajduk and all the cultural events that are responsible for popularity of Croatia in the world.”
“We Croats are few and we have to be loud, we need to stand up for ourselves, and this is not possible if we are nowhere to be found,” he says.
Maja Blagdan came fourth in Oslo in 1996 with her song “Sveta ljubav”. “Our representative should be chosen without too much hesitation, calculation and lobbying—what has been done past few years,” she says. She adds that the biggest mistake of the Croatian delegation is insisting on copying the last year’s winning strategy so our representatives could not truly convey the song to the audience.
Rajko Dujmic, who has lately expressed a wish to represent his home country again, agrees. “I understand the part where there is no money, but there are also some other problems. Perhaps our delegation should have consulted more with people who have experience with the Eurovision Song Contest so it is actually not strange that we had poor results lately.”
Emilija Kokic, the lead singer of Riva, who brought victory to Yugoslavia in 1989, thinks that a one year break may come in handy. “I think they gave up because they are plagued by bad loans and worse criticism,” says the singer. She adds that Eurovision is not what it once was because the European scene has too many singers. “Many countries, such as Yugoslavia, broke up and there is more lobbying every year. All this leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths and people are used to thinking that everything, including a winner, can be predicted.”
Tonci Huljic, a veteran songwriter, had his number ‘Marija Magdalena’ performed by Doris Dragovic in 1999. He makes the point that there are shows far more expensive than Eurovision for HRT. “Personally, I’m very sorry for Croatian music that this has happened. I have no right to interfere in the decision of HRT, but I think that an unsettled situation is one to blame. Various editorial positions were filled by good people, but not people qualified for the job. The wrong people, therefore, chose the wrong people. If our placements were better, we would not even have thought about this. Financials does not cause cancellation. For Croatia, Eurovision means more than Porin [a Croatian music award founded by Croatian Phonographic Association] in which HRT invests seven times more than in the Eurovision Song Contest, and it all boils down to one show that has a viewership of 2.1 %”. Tonci has admitted that he is considering accepting an offer from another European country to create their Eurovision song in 2014.
Zrinko Tutic, the composer of Croatia’s 1996 entry ‘Sveta ljubav had this to say: “Croatian music was penalized because of the arrogance and incompetence of editors from HRT. They kept thinking that they know how to work alongside some great people who have achieved great results. Tonci and I apologize that we were fourth, and Rajko for being the first. All this is pathetic and ridiculous and it seems to me that Croatia will again perform only after conducting of some warrant of arrest.”
Neda Parmac, one third of the group Feminnem, doesn’t mind the break. “I’m sorry that next year we will miss the competition, but I think it is not a bad idea to take a break and consider the whole situation. Obviously we are doing something wrong, and certain changes should be introduced. Eurovision is an expensive project that would not work just like that. Still, our country is rich in quality of individual authors and artists and should not be in this situation. Fans of Eurovision and I hope that this is just a one-year break.”
After HRT’s decision to pull out, it’s obvious that Klapa s mora was the last act that had sung for Croatia. The first tenor vocal, Marko Skugor, says that he’s neither sad nor happy about it, but neither he nor the other guys from Klapa feel responsible for the decision. This year in Sweden, Klapa s mora achieved 13th out of 16 semi-finalists. “Everything has a shelf life, and so does Eurovision…We were no worse than others.”
Is there a delegation to blame? How long can Croatia survive without the Eurovision? Are you satisfied with Croatia being out? Should they focus on returning to JESC now? Let us know in the comments box below!
Mario Saucedo contributed this report from Croatia. Follow the team from WiwiBloggs.com on Twitter @wiwibloggs. And while you’re at it, like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date with the latest Eurovision news and gossip.