Following Barei’s performance in the grand final of Eurovision 2016, the bookies started narrowing Spain’s odds to win, moving her all the way to third favourite. Spanish Eurofans went crazy…but the illusion of victory soon faded. First came the jury results, which put Spain in 16th — a decidedly middling result. The televote was the final nail in the coffin: Spain only received 10 points from 42 countries. Almost immediately, all eyes turned to RTVE. And those eyes were rolling.
Barei’s 22nd place finish has led disgruntled fans to call for the heads of two key figures: Head of Delegation Federico Llano and RTVE Entertainment Director Toñi Prieto. As they launched an online petition, Prieto got rhetorical: Would Spain have finished higher without the two of them, she asked, or do the problems for Spain run much deeper?
Barei – Say Yay! live at Eurovision 2016
Spain’s string of poor results has deeper roots than one may think. Since Federico Llano took control of Spain’s Eurovision delegation back in 2002, the country has never reached top 5. A seventh place finish in 2002 remains their best result.
However, the situation wasn’t much better before. During the 90s, Spain only hit the top 5 three times — in 1990, 1991 and 1995. And in the 1980s it only did so once — in 1984. The problem appears to be structural and one that predates Llano’s direction.
Spain’s poor results at Eurovision are the consequence of a larger problem, directly related to RTVE’s approach to culture in general and the contest in particular. Let’s review a few of the symptoms.
1. Insufficient commitment to Eurovision
The vast majority of fans point to RTVE’s lack of dedication to Eurovision. This is something that Llano himself proved on Saturday, when he explained that the quest for the next Eurovision representative will begin in the fall.
While many broadcasters across Europe will kick off their Eurovision 2017 preparations shortly, Spanish television will ignore the issue until September. That contrasts sharply with Germany’s NDR, which has already started drafting its 2017 game plan. wiwibloggs has also learned that France is already contemplating how it can improve on its sixth place finish.
This, obviously, affects the level of preparations for the country’s selection and future representative. One might think that the Spanish delegation would be working non-stop to sort out its fortunes at the Eurovision Song Contest. Alas.
One of the biggest problems for RTVE is that none of its professionals in charge of Eurovision can commit fully to the contest. In delegations like Sweden and France, their current HoDs dedicate much of their year working on Eurovision. However, in Spain’s case, Federico Llano is the Head of Coproductions and Festivals. This, according to Spain’s TV Academy, includes Eurovision, and other festivals and contests in which TVE takes part, and all the audiovisual coproductions (documentaries, fictional series, animation and more). In this type of system, Eurovision obviously has to be put on the back burner for much of the year.
Most of the well-known names on the Spanish delegation have other responsibilities within RTVE. For example, in the months leading up to Eurovision, several of them are also involved in MasterChef, one of the public broadcaster’s most popular shows.
The point of all this is not to question their skills: We know that they are talented journalists and creators who give their best every year. But they are stretched too thin. They’re human and they have their limits. We shouldn’t discredit their work. But we should advocate for RTVE to give them the space and time to do their jobs well.
The problem is RTVE’s conception of Eurovision, and the fact they see it as just another regular show. Broadcasters like Sweden’s SVT understand that Eurovision is different and that having a team fully committed to it pays off — both in terms of audience and results.
Eurovision is one of RTVE’s most profitable shows, and it costs half as much as a regular TV serial, but brings in twice the audience. Yet there is not permanent and constant work on the contest. Recognizing this and responding to it with a devoted team is essential for progress.
2. RTVE’s old-fashioned approach to music
Eurovision is a music contest, so the cultural background of the broadcaster matters. A network that doesn’t understand music as an essential part of its schedule will never get the essential feedback from the music industry to secure a fab Eurovision representative. That’s exactly what happens with RTVE.
Music in the corporation is left to Radio 3 and Radio Clásica, two stations dedicated to alternative and classical music. These stations have very low ratings: in the last wave of the Estudio General de Medios (April 2016), Radio 3 only recorded 378,000 listeners per day (a 2.9% market share) and Radio Clásica recorded 174,000 (a mere 1% of the audience).
There have been attempts to put popular music on TVE’s spotlight recently, and they have failed miserably to say the least. For example, the station aired hideous TV shows like La Alfombra Roja Palace (a variety show that ran for a month in 2015 with a peak audience of 843,000 people) and Uno de los nuestros (a reality show that tried to find Spain’s best open-air dance singer). And then there was the Spanish version of RTÉ’s The Hit, which also experienced painfully low ratings. These shows all had the same ending: They were removed from the schedule within weeks.
Spain’s landscape is completely different to many broadcasters who earn much better results at Eurovision. For example, Italy’s RAI broadcasts the longest running music competition in the world (Sanremo), and Germany’s ARD, France Télévisions and Belgium’s RTBF offer ARTE, an entire TV station dedicated to culture and music.
3. Clichéd view of fans
RTVE pays major attention to the Spanish Eurovision fan base, who, of course, represent a small fraction of the viewers of Eurovision. This coincides with the stereotype of ‘diva-lover’ who is frequently disconnected from current musical trends. It’s as if RTVE plays to a caricature of the fandom.
In the weeks preceding the contest, we often hear the typical comments of, “Oh, how do you know so much about Eurovision?” or “Yes, the fans know everything about the contest, it’s incredible”. These exclamations of wonder come from the same people who run Spain’s Eurovision entry. The prevailing vision of the Eurovision fan reduces the audience who can relate to Eurovision. Unlike other countries, such as the UK or France, the Spanish public is not especially hostile to the contest. Many complain, but everybody watches. RTVE reduces its target to the stereotypical ‘diva-lover’ anyway.
4. The disconnect with Spain’s music scene
Given the point of view of the contest that prevails at RTVE, Eurovision is not attractive to Spanish musicians. And it really should be, given that the Spanish music industry is not going through its best moment. The economic crisis and the increase of cultural VAT to 21% (the highest in Europe) has thrown Spain’s music scene into ICU.
Even at this desperate moment there’s still a lot of music in Spain. The country is a giant summer festival, with musicians of all genres performing for tens of thousands at FIB, BBK, Arenal Sound, SOS 4.8, Viña Rock, Primavera Sound and Sonorama. All of these events attract viewers.
RTVE could take advantage of this and stage a massive selection. The public broadcaster’s budget isn’t what it once was, but they have experience broadcasting live concerts, which are frequently broadcast on La 2 and Radio 3.
With these synergies the Eurovision selection could be transformed into a major stage for bands and artists. They helped change the artist’s point of view about the contest, and gave them a platform in prime time, on mainstream TV.
Spain has never had a consistent national selection format. In fact, the current Head of Delegation openly says that the public broadcaster tries to persuade a famous artist to participate and if nobody accepts, they stage a preselection with mostly unknown artists. This selection is often created a month before it happens and the results are lame and unappealing as was the case this year and in 2014 — when the selection was staged on the set of another show.
The big mistake here is that RTVE is basically improvising. Their selection depends on the will of a determined artist who may or may not want to enter Eurovision. If this option fails, then they hastily stage a selection. And then they’re surprised and blame bloc voting for Spain’s failure.
6. Lack of interest
As we say in Spain, this is the mother of all problems. As much as the broadcaster tries to present itself as supportive of the contest, RTVE basically twiddles its thumbs when it comes to Eurovision. The promotion is nearly non-existent: Nobody knows the Spanish entry before the contest unless the contestant is super famous (as with Edurne and Pastora Soler).
Things don’t improve when the contest arrives. Until two years ago, RTVE only aired one of the two semi-finals, and it constantly airs commercials during the interval acts. This year provides a good example. While our European brothers and sisters were loving SVT’s ‘Love Love Peace Peace’ number, Spaniards had to watch this:
Not one, but TWO split screens. And Spanish fans erupted in rage on Twitter obviously. The most ridiculous thing about it was that RTVE doesn’t show commercial publicity, so it was all self-promotion. It’s dirty to use your most popular show to promote TV shows nobody sees or wants to see.
Perhaps the greatest embodiment of this lack of caring is Spain’s Eurovision commentator José María Íñigo, who has already said publicly that he feels too lazy to go to Eurovision 2017. Íñigo, a truly veteran journalist who began working in TV in 1968, took on the task of commenting in 2011, and to be honest, he has never put much effort in it.
His commentary is often vague and consists of “insight” like “this is just another song which speaks about love and peace”. In 2012 he called Pastora Soler “Paloma Soler”. It’s not difficult to imagine the excitement that he transmits to people watching at home.
7. Bipolar participation
When somebody is selected to represent Spain at Eurovision, things can go two ways: either RTVE totally controls the staging and the music, or it doesn’t even bother. We’ve seen both examples recently.
This year Barei had total freedom to create her staging together with her producer Rubén Villanueva, who is also her boyfriend. This was heavily criticised by Spanish media, who thought she could benefit from professional help. In fact, our wiwibloggers on-the-ground in Stockholm said the same thing after her first rehearsal.
However, the singer has claimed that ” someone” in the Spanish Eurovision delegation asked the producers team to “simplify” the act, thus throwing to the bin the previous work Barei and Giò Forma agency had done. As the singer commented on radio show Pasión Eurovisión, who knows if keeping the staging as it was would have improved the final placing, but the fact that it was randomly changed gives us a taste of how things are done at the house of RTVE.
Back in 2009, RTVE totally changed Soraya’s stage show. The singer later complained about the broadcaster’s attitude and claimed they told her: “Eurovision is not your dream, it’s our dream and you represent us”. She had her dance routine changed and her choreographer replaced. Result? 23rd place.
In 2012 Pastora Soler said that RTVE had asked her “not to win” Eurovision, explaining that Eurovision “entails huge amounts of money which Azerbaijan can pay, but we can’t”. She later denied her own comments — but by then the game was up. We’re talking about Azerbaijan, a small republic in the Caucasus, and Spain, a country that brags about being one of the Top 20 economies of the world.
Conclusion: We need major changes at RTVE
This year’s edition was the third least watched Eurovision in Spain since the 90s. And from 2002, the contest has steadily seen a decrease in viewing figures in Spain, even as social networks go crazy for it and the overall viewing figures go up globally. This, coupled with the poor results this delegation has delivered lately, demands a response from the broadcaster.
Severe changes need to be made, not only within the Eurovision delegation, but within the whole Entertainment and Culture section at RTVE. It’s only then that the public broadcaster can fulfil its mission of promoting Spanish culture.
What do you think about Spain’s participation in the contest? What would you sort out at the house of RTVE? Share your feelings in the comment section below!
The truth is, Spain as a whole is Incompetent. Yes, with capital “I”. Spaniards should get over the fact they are not as strong as other countries and should stop broadcasting the after-ESC show where they just complain about the lacking of votes.
Eugene! IF we skip the host country and espesially Frans. I really think big five should give it a chance and be in the semifinal! That was my point! Are there no one of big five that are considering that? What are their arguments? Perhaps the host country should still be on the grand final and perhaps get an advantage to be one of the three last song of the show? It would be strange if ukraine missad the Grand final next year. Well, this is how i would like it to be! But ESC is what it is! ;… Read more »
Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages in the world and yet they choose to sing in English. Hard to understand. Same with Italy. The song was cool until she started singing that last chorus in English. Why, oh why is beyond my understanding.
I really don’t get all the fuss about Spain’s result this year. While many of us predicted this and kept saying it to whomever was willing to listen, Spanish fans ran their own war in social medias and screamed, (oh yeah, they scream) that their entry was amazing.
Well sorry guys, it simply wasn’t. As a matter of fact, I find it childish and more appropriate for a Junior Eurovision than the senior one.
Say yay yay yay.. Say yay yay yay (I mean… come on)
In sweden many were surprised that Frans ended at fifthplace althoug he didn’t get the oppurtunity to be in the semifinal.
As a public I get my favorites in the semifinals and hold on to them. Big five have to squize in between those who has got my attention.
If big five don’t think that they could be top 10 in semifinals, how can they think they will end upp topp 10 in the grandfinal! ?
Couldn’t agree more :”In my view being one of the Big 5 is still a Big disadvantage, although France did well this year and Italy did really well last year. So the Big 5 really have to bring something very special to do well.”
Well in sweden we are were many that was surprised that Frans came at fifth place althoug he wasn’t in
In my opinion, Spain and RTVE suffer from the same problem as Ireland and RTE. Lacklustre enthusiasm from the broadcaster, lacklustre singer/Song and lacklustre staging.
Spain, like Ireland, would do well every year of the effort was made. As it is, both countries always gather a decent number of points, Spain usually finishes in the mid teens while Ireland is always borderline (12th) in the semi. So the countries are appreciated. If the effort was made on their sides, they would do well ever year, Spain would be Top 10 and Ireland would be qualifying.
The ONLY mistake Spain is making is that they don’t do a very good job picking directors.
This year, Barei and her backing singers were dressed horribly. Plus, that fall she did in the middle of the song looked stupid.
Last year, Edurne’s over the top performance cost her a top 10 spot. Had she simply stood still and sang the song, she would have done much, much better.
In both cases, a good director would have figured this out.
@GEF Now, come on: 2, 7, 1, 6, 3, 10th place is not successful? I am not so sure. However, you didn´t get my point. Ofc all of us can complain and be sad. I am just saying that Spain simply didn´t have a strong and competitive entry this year – like a year ago as well. As for your comment about diaspora voting for Serbia, I have an advice for that as well – with regard to all those countries from the West complaining about bloc-voting: If Spain would let Catalonia, Basque and Galicia go, then it could have… Read more »
so if Serbia only ends up 18th it is a big crime, but Spain should not complain? I don’t get it. Besides, Serbia was not so extremely successfull either except for 2012 despite their diaspora votes.
Spain has the problem that it is an automatic qualifyer. The songs are strong enough to reach the final but maybe not strong enough to reach a good result in the final. So since they are automatically qualified it looks auwfull if they end up being 22nd or 21st. However other countries would say: Look at us, we have qualified four times in a row…. Besides, Spain had two top10 ranks in the last five years. That is not too bad!
People, stop blaming head of delegation, RTVE, Saint Peter etc. and wake up! Spain sends bad songs! Since I am from Serbia, I can say that pretty much all but one of the above mentioned reasons could apply for my country. Yet (with the exception of this year – which is however a crime) we are considered to be one of Eurovision heavy-weights. It is all about the song and the performer. Bojana and Sanja – nobody in Serbia has ever heard of them before. But once we saw them performing, we thought: send them straight to Eurovision (in spite… Read more »
Spain should stop participating
Lots of bad years are still ahead for Spain. Old-fashioned delegation is not being replaced this year and they won’t invest big time for a potential winner candidacy. Feel for all those spanish eurofans who get wishful every year with their spanish candidacy. They kinda get cheated with RTVE propaganda, while bosses keep boycotting their own entry as #Euroleaks by http://www.eurovision-spain.com shown these days. While this contest is moving into a visual revolution and the song itself keeps losing importance, some of the RTVE bosses confessed today that the main reason for a 22th position was “singing in english”. Too… Read more »
In my opinion televoters should decide in 100% because people vote for songs which are catchy. Juries vote for neighbour`s songs and discredite songs from countries which are on the carpet.
@Eugene. Sounds very alarming if that really is the case. But I don’t think t really works that way anyway 🙂 Juries vote for the music they like the most anyway. Just like we regular televoters do.
I agree with the passage about the disconnect with the Spanish music scene btw. There is obviosuly a flourising music scene in Spain. New bands coming up on music festivals etc. And talents need their breaktrhough…
Participating in Eurovision has not made any Spanish artist’s position improve within the industry- it hasn’t damaged it, but none of them have significantly benefitted from it? Even Pastora and Ruth, who got good results, haven’t become stars outside of Spain. Given the amount of time and money that needs to be invested in preparation for one night, that doesn’t even pay (unless they wrote the song) for the winner, there is a reduced incentive to participate. This phenomenon can be observed in Austria, where the 2016 NF yielded fairly good entries- after the success of Conchita removed Austria’s label… Read more »
I forgot to say that the Bulgarian lyric of “If Love Was A Crime” probably got stuck in people’s minds in a good and catchy way, while this “Say yay yay yay” was actually annoying. I really liked Barei’s song but I would like it more if they had done something about this.
My guess: Bulgaria overshadowed Spain. They were two similar songs and Poli did the same dance moves with Barei. The public must have thought that Barei is copying Poli (it’s actually the opposite), since Bulgaria performed earlier (the same happened with Iceland, they were overshadowed by Russia). I thought that Spain would do very well with the televote but I was wrong.
@Eugene. Maybe you misunderstood me. OF COURSE, I also want ESC to be only based on music, not the “entertainment”. And I think most people will agree. Including EBU. I think they really care about the contest. But sometimes they seem to be a bit “bewildered” on what to do / decide. For my part, I don’t like the fact that the juries actually see the performances. I think they only should listen to the songs. As professionals, they shoud be able to separate things. But you can never tell for sure…Either way, juries tend to vote DOWN songs that… Read more »
If Barei had achieved even one spot higher than Edurne you’d be all like “see how much our chances have improved by singing in English???”
I thought that despite having bland staging, Barei had a good song and performance, she deserved better.
The people in charge of TVE do seem quite mediocre and uninterested, and I will never forgive them for scorning their fellow hispanics across the ocean and making us watch on youtube this year.
The televoters ranked it 18th.
Discard the diasporas and neighbour-voting rubbish, and Pastora would have been top 10.
Diaspora and neighbour-voting is the thing that should be eradicated. Juries alone would have never made Dima Bilan or Azerbaijan 2011 the winners and so they’re more valid on that basis alone.
National selection format and procedure don’t correlate with the result in the competition. For example Australia’s (#2 ), Russia’s (#3), Bulgaria’s (#4) France’s (#6) and Armenia’s (#7) entries have been chosen internally this year. In fact, while only 17 songs have been chosen internally (40%), 12 of them have qualified to the final and 5 of them have reached top 10. In 2015 Russia’s (#2), Belgium’s (#4), Australia’s (#5) entries were selected internally.
@Eugene. You raise some valid points, but there’s one thing I don’t agree about. (just my idealism I suppose) EBU might call ESC an “enterainment show”. And fair enough, it is. But I am sure they are credible and earnest enough to “admit” it’s first of all a music contest. Visuals are OK too. It’s like spice on the dinner. But it’s not the meat or fish. Music is. The fudament of the huge success of ESC for 60 years. And so it will remain, if it is to be taken seriously. Thankfully. I am a big music fan in… Read more »
I think the staging and backing vocals have been issues. Barei’s backing singers were way too loud and had less than ideal vocals. The staging I think was average but the intentional fall was bad in my opinion. People watching for the first time may have seen this as accidental and therefore low quality
I really like Barei`s song but in live she wasn`t amazing. Her show wasn`t cohesive and powerful. RTVE must change Eurovision`s attitude because it is the biggest problem.
Wait, is anyone srsly surprised that Spain didn’t do well this year? Let’s face it the song was a hot mess and the performance was boring af.
The main problem of Spain (and UK, Germany, France too) is that they’re mostly sending bad or just okish songs with even worse performances…
Looking at the last 10 years I only loved ONE Spanish entry:
2012 they had a true underrated masterpiece. But all the others were okish at best.
I think that all the big five suffer from an “is that all they’ve got ?” attitude across the even bigger 38.That’s certainly the case with the ‘pop up’ acts presented by the UK across the years. Spain have Federico Llano, we have Guy Freeman. Spain have José María Íñigo, we have the appalling Scot Mills and the increasingly disappointing Graham Norton. I already feel that the two countries will be 20th and 25th next year.
Well, Spain hasn’t done that badly in recent years considering that they reached the top 10 in 2014 and 2012… with around 40 countries competing you can expect to make the top 10 every fourth year on average. So their results are not actually “bad” or “poor”, they’re simply average. “A string of poor results” – to me that sounds more like Finland (not in the top 10 since their victory despite making it to the final a couple of times), Switzerland (haven’t reached the top 10 since 2005 and made it through the semi final only twice in the… Read more »
It seems like Spain is going through a certain creative crisis when it comes to current years’ ESC contributions. However, I still gladly play and remember some of their ballads from way back in the past… such as “La Fiesta Terminó” by the sparkling Almodovaresque 80’s diva Paloma di San Basilio (1985) or the dreamy “Gwendolyne” by the then débuting future global star, Julio Iglesias (1970), or “Hablemos de Amor” by Raphaël (1966). There were no lengthy debates about the staging back in those days, one would just sit down, watch and listen. Very simple, really. It makes me think… Read more »
…and really. Even if details might be important. It’s not about having the “right” dress or not. It’s a music contest. Not some sort of fashion show. Thankfully!
The problem with most of the national selections is that ESC is often seen as an one week project and event. But at the other hand,you could see ESC as an unique opportunity to give 200 million viewers all across Europe a glimpse of your music and yourself as an artist. Give your best national artists, which have proven to have a more than decent live performance over the span of multiple years, a chance to use ESC as a big promotion for a new album. In that case, the artist always chooses the song it is most proud of,… Read more »
I must add something to my long message about. The person who wrote this article is spot on with the claims of TVE having a stereotyped view on fans. (the same has partly been the case with the TV-station from my home country) No hablo espanol, but even I can understand that when watching the Spanish finals! Seems they think they are all young, male, no girlfriend (to put it that way 🙂 ) and love diva ballads. As for the “diva ballads” – if there is ANY musical style I find more dull and cliched than other music styles… Read more »
My only advice for Spain would be to convince Ricky Martin to enter and then you’ll be fine 😉
Jokes aside, Spain has a LOT of great artists that could do well. The problem is that the Spanish broadcasters seems to be totally incompetent.
@World of wisdom: I agree with you.
“Quedate conmigo” is well sung and all that. But very dated, cliched, contrived and unoriginal. Even if I understand why many people liked it, I found it very ovverated. The televoters ranked it 18th. And I think THAT was being generous 🙂
Spain is currently the worst of the Big 5, with the lowest top result and having passed the (low) hurdle of 20th place the fewest times out of the 5 countries. The biggest issue is that the Spanish eurofans always praise Spain’s entry and RTVE automatically believes that means it’s good. They need an international jury in their finals if they want to get anywhere.
You do realise that the UK is one of the few countries who are looking for entries right now?
About Spain and national selection!
You could make your nationalselection to become more interesting for the big multinational recordcomanies. That is how the standard has improved in the swedish national selection!
If you can read the Worldwide language swedish ; )
If they did send Salva or Maverick, I would have seriously voted for Spain. But as you said, I agree that RTVE feels like they improvises too much. A national selection like Melfest could help Spain a lot.
Words of wisdom, i think there are a lot of escfans that need to cool down. ESC is supposed to be fun! We have to encurage eachother to be cooool!
Otherwise ESC should be a music festival whithout a winner.
Spain is doing the same mistake as UK do.
UK in 2009 sends classy ballad and it finished 5th. Spain did it in 2012 and 2014 and also scored good. Why can’t they just improve their ballads?
I think Spain needs to be in semifinal! I wich Sweden would have had that chanse even this year as a sweed!
Well! Spain need to be in semifinal! I wich Sweden would have had that chanse even this year as a sweed!
“why do spain always do so bad in televoting, when they always send amazing songs?!?!?!”
Begging the question, are you not?
It appears the voters don’t think Spain’s songs are as amazing as you think they are.
well things must change, especially after Barei’s disappointing 22th place
???????? really well written
Un dato correcto para wiwi, en el año 89 nuestra representante Nina y su ” Nacida para amar “termino en 5 luguar y deveria haber ganado ese año y no la horrosa cancion Yugaslava.Quizas influyo el tema politico?
Spain’s unfairest place ever is Pastora’s. She so deserved so much higher in the final. I personally think, Spain usually has 1 song that’s top 5 material in their National Finals but, strange enough, those songs never get to make it to the Eurovision.
No entiendo lo que pasó. Barei estaba la mejora, todavía no habia recibido muchos puntos. Estoy aún deprimido por eso.
The problem is much deeper and there are only 2 words that can describe it : “Spanish people”. Spanish people are the biggest problem of Spain in ESC and their constant nagging and talking about the Spanish song like it’s the best entry in the world and they deserve to win. In their top 10 videos in youtube you see only Spanish people putting their song on first place. Eventually with the time people just get tired of the song and Spain itself and the wow effect of the whole thing is just lost and people vote for something else,… Read more »
This was really well written, good job.