Ever since the EBU tweeted that a 41st country would join us at Eurovision 2016, Eurofans have been busy speculating that it’s Australia. After all, during Eurovision 2015 Jon Ola Sand made comments that left the door wide open for Australia to return, and Australia is slated to debut at Junior Eurovision later this month. Assuming that this is the case — and that Australia, which has bags of money, will be awarded permanent member status within the EBU and therefore a place at Eurovision — will it once again receive an automatic bid to the final?
We’re glad you asked. The EBU have released the Public Rules of the 61st Eurovision Song Contest and they give the EBU plenty of wiggle room to decide whether Australia will have to endure a semi-final or advance direkt till final.
The rules state that a maximum of 26 countries will compete in the grand final, with six guaranteed places — one for the host broadcaster and the others for the Big 5 (France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom). Nothing new so far.
Then comes this line: “Subject to a decision by the EBU in consultation with the Reference Group, the number of guaranteed places in the Final may be modified depending on circumstances.”
This rule has been in place since 2011, presumably to accomodate Italy’s return to the contest. But the context has changed dramatically since then, most especially with Australia’s Eurovision debut, making this line rather important.
As you recall, Australia competed as a special guest at Eurovision 2015 with an assured spot in the final to prevent the country from taking away a spot from another country. If they are awarded a permanent spot this changes the game, and there are countless ways to interpret the above statement. One is that the EBU and the Reference Group are still debating whether Australia should have to slug it out in the semis or, if owing to its potential financial contribution, it should get an automatic berth in the final. Another theory is that Australia will compete in the semi-finals, and that the leeway provided by the above clause is meant for another surprise country. The EBU said 41 participants “so far” — perhaps Kosovo or China will join us for the party in Stockholm too?
Regardless, the thoughts of many are now focused on the Land of Kangaroos and Koalas. We’d venture a guess that the EBU is now figuring out when to make the announcement that Australia is joining us for good. We imagine they’ll announce soon. And if not, Junior Eurovision gives them the obvious time peg later this month. If Bella Paige wins — or at least slays on stage as we know she will — it gives the EBU the perfect opportunity to say something like: “As demonstrated with its recent win at Junior Eurovision, Australia has an enthusiasm for Eurovision that merits a permanent place in both contests.” EBU press team, you can bill me later.
What do you think is going on?