We may be nearing the end of December, but the list of participating countries in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 has still not been finalized. Slovenia and Greece have not confirmed participation, and conditions in the latter are particularly confusing.
Back in June, the Greek government shut down the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, ERT, in response to the financial crisis. That thrust 2,656 people into unemployment. One month later, the government itself created the new “state” broadcaster, named DT (Hellenic Public Radio Television).
What Used to be true
Until recently fans thought DT would sort everything out. They were 99% sure that Greece would participate in Eurovision. This was not only due to the ambition of the Eurofans, but also because of informal announcements by DT. The sentiments of Eurofans seemed to follow a script: “There is no possibility that Greece will withdraw from such a commercial product like Eurovision. We have been raising money to participate. Work is in full swing right now.”
At the same time, the EBU seemed optimistic that Greece would participate, and discussions with the interim broadcaster were going well, although they did not reach an agreement. Counting their chickens before they hatched, people were already worrying about what the national final would look. In addition, Greece was given an extension to sort out its issue of finding a broadcaster to foot the bill.
A 180° TURN
This was just the tip of the iceberg. Discussions with DT stopped, and then the president of the EBU, Jean Paul Philippot, immediately visited the people who got fired and who remained in ERT’s former headquarters producing a free program. Surely he was aware of the criticism that DT, whose programs date back to the 90s, does not work properly yet, and that many believe that it only expresses the views of the president, and not the Greek people.
“It would be very difficult for Greece to participate without an official state TV station,” he said. “I support ERT, the shutdown of which is gagging democracy. DT will never become a member of the EBU.”
This is why everyone is now sure that Greece will not take part in the forthcoming ESC. It was once suggested that another TV channel would take up the Eurovision project, something which was rejected by the president of the EBU himself.
THE CONDITION WITH THE BROADCASTER(s)
DT will broadcast until the new and permanent broadcaster is created, possibly in March. This TV channel will be named NERIT (New Hellenic Radio Internet Television), and will surely be broadcasting by the time the contest takes place. The problem is that Greece cannot participate with two different TV stations. But in the meantime one is yet to be created and the other one is not performing well. In addition, none of these channels is capable of becoming an EBU member, something that is required to gain a spot in the list of the participating countries.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
NERIT/DT is asking the EBU for a second extension. The formal announcements are set to be made in December, and Europe will have to wait to find out if Greece can find a solution. There are, though, many more issues with this, starting with which TV channel will help NERIT/DT air a unique national final celebrating the 40th year that Greece (hopefully) takes part in the ESC.
Billy Xifaras contributed this report from Greece. Follow him on Twitter at @bill_xifaras. You can also keep up-to-date on the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the entire team from wiwibloggs on Twitter @wiwibloggs and by liking our Facebook page.