The Eurovision 2016 host broadcaster SVT has confirmed that the controversial “anti-booing” technology of Eurovision 2015 will not be used when Sweden hosts this May. SVT’s president Hanna Stjärne says the focus will be on making an “authentic show”.
At Eurovision 2015, Austrian broadcaster ORF played pre-recorded applause and cheering at various parts of the show, including after Polina Gagarina’s performance of “A Million Voices”. According to those in the arena, some members of the audience could be heard loudly booing the Russian act. But viewers at home instead heard the overlaid pre-recorded cheers.
This was unpopular with Eurovision fans, but it also made it as far as Swedish parliament, with MP Bengt Eliasson calling on the Minister of Culture, Alice Bah Kuhnke, to ensure such measures would not be in use when Sweden hosted this year. (The minister feel it was not appropriate for the government to comment on broadcasting decisions.)
But now it seems that SVT has no intention of following the lead of their Austrian colleagues. Speaking to Aftonbladet, SVT boss Hanna Stjärne promised such measures would not be used, saying, “We want to make an authentic show. We will not censor the different parts.”
Eurovision Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand also noted that the EBU had never asked ORF to introduce the anti-booing technology in 2015, saying, “The EBU would never ask for it, we did not ask for it last year and will not ask for it in years to come.”
Eurovision 2016 executive producer Martin Österdahl also confirmed that SVT would not use pre-recorded applause. He said their focus would be producing “a night when we put everything else aside and come together in celebration and joy and music and encourage fair play in the competition.”
To Russia with love?
Booing of the Russian act began in 2014 with the Tolmachevy Sisters in Copenhagen. This was the first ESC following the 2013 introduction of Russia’s internationally criticised LGBT propaganda law, which makes it illegal to present minors with information about “non-traditional sexual relationships”.
While Russia’s 2012 act, the Buranovskiye Babushki, were largely adored by Eurovision audiences, the Tolmachevy Sisters were booed during both their semi-final and final performances two years later, which the 17-year-old sisters found upsetting.
Polina Gagarina faced a similar reaction, but in 2015 ORF came prepared, both with the “anti-booing” technology and with the hosts firmly reminding audience members to put their political beliefs to one side and celebrate the performers.
Dima Bilan was also booed at the Eurovision’s Greatest Hits show last year, which required a stern telling-off from host Graham Norton, and for an introduction to be filmed again.
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s 2016 act Sergey Lazarev will also face booing after his performance. The hugely popular pop star has a significant European fan base, and has frequently spoken out against Russia’s LGBT propaganda law.
What do you think? Is SVT right to not cover up any audience booing? Will Sergey Lazarev get booed in Stockholm? Share your thoughts below!