Despite recent obstacles and disputes between Israel’s national broadcaster KAN and the government of Israel, it now seems that preparations for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 have officially started.
As we previously reported, KAN has still not paid the 12 million euro deposit required by the EBU. Thankfully KAN asked for an extension so that it could negotiate the funding channels with the government (aka, who is going to pay and how much will each party contribute). The EBU agreed to extend the deadline until 14 August 2018.
According to Ynet, Israel’s leading news website, everything is now back on track following a productive meeting between the broadcaster and the government. The two sides have reportedly discussed an estimated budget of NIS 150 million, or around 35 million euros. The actual bill for the taxpayer will be around NIS 100 million, or around 23.5 million euros. The remaining third of the budget — NIS 50 million (11.5 million euros) will come from ticket sales and promotions.
A day before the deadline to submit the €12 million ($14m) security deposit to host Eurovision 2019, the EBU has given KAN an extension. As Israel’s Maariv newspaper reports, the Geneva-based body is now giving KAN until August 14 to come up with the funds — and to negotiate the guarantee that was offered by the state in lieu of security funds. In their response to KAN’s request for an extension, the EBU has indicated that the “process is critical” — implying perhaps that no more extensions will be given. In an urgent letter dated July 30, and that was addressed to Minister of Communication Ayoob Kara, KAN’s CEO Gil Omer stated that KAN will not be able to produce Eurovision without the guarantee. #eurovisionsongcontest #eurovision2019 #eurovision #esc2019
Despite the broad agreement about the overall budget, KAN and the state have not settled the terms regarding the deposit. KAN says that without the government’s assistance, it will not be able to transfer the funds by the deadline unless 200 employees are let go or other budget cuts are made.
The government refuses to pay the funds, although it has agreed to provide a guarantee to KAN in case it defaults on the payment. This dispute is thought to be political (and not financial) and that a solution will eventually be found. Curiously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very keen to host Eurovision…though it is not clear whether that is because he is a fan of the contest or because of his political goal of showing the world that Israel can host an international event. Whatever the reason, this is good news for Eurovision, as it means that the “crisis” is almost over and preparations are in full swing.
In the meantime, it looks as if the next Israeli candidate for Eurovision 2019 will once again be selected by The Next Star, as has been the case since 2015. This detail is not yet final nor confirmed.
As in the dispute between KAN and the state, negotiations between KESHET — the producer of The Next Star — and KAN are ongoing. In this instance the disagreements regard technical issues rather than money. Initially, KAN had launched a tender for Eurovision 2019 but according to Ynet, The Next Star is still preferred by the broadcaster.
Who will host Eurovision 2019?
The rumour mill is already spinning, and it’s spit out two names with high frequency.
Erez Tal, 57, is one of Israel’s most respected TV and radio personalities. Tal is the leading candidate, as he was the commentator during Eurovision 2018 and received incredibly positive feedback. In fact, he is the one who called on Israelis to “forget about work” and go to Kikar Rabin to celebrate the nation’s fourth victory (as they did when Dana International won in 1998).
But according to Israel Hayom newspaper, Assi Azar is also a possible candidate, having reportedly had a secret meeting with KAN’s CEO earlier this week. Azar, 39, has been the co-host of The Next Star since 2015 (alongside Rotem Sella, whose candidacy has also been unofficially rumoured). Azar previously co-hosted the Israeli version of the Big Brother with Erez Tal for six seasons between 2010 and 2015, before leaving to host The Next Star. Could they be chosen to host together again?