Since the EBU’s announcement back in July this year that the Eurovision Asia Song Contest was still “early in the development process”, serious doubt was cast as to whether the contest would make its planned 2018 debut.
Outgoing Australian broadcaster SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid has now confirmed that organising the contest is proving “too geo-politically difficult”, with the broadcaster in charge of organising the inaugural event putting the idea on the back-burner.
In an interview with Australian television blog TV Tonight, Ebeid says that SBS are now focusing on Australia’s participation at Eurovision in 2019, with a new selection process rumoured to be announced within the next month.
“(Eurovision Asia has) probably been my one disappointment. I would have liked to have made more progress on that. It’s just proven too geo-politically difficult. We are still talking to a few of the countries but we have put all our energy into this other idea we’re planning to announce soon. It’s more in our control and continent, whereas trying to get 10 Asian countries to agree has proven really difficult.”
Plans for the contest to be staged have not been thrown out completely, with Ebeid saying that work on Eurovision Asia will continue after Australia’s imminent announcement regarding Australia’s plans for Eurovision 2019:
“We haven’t given up on the idea (of Eurovision Asia), but once we get past this next announcement we will go back to working on it.”
The EBU announced back in July this year that plans for the Eurovision Asia Song Contest were still “early”, casting doubt on whether the planned 2018 debut would eventuate. Back in July an EBU spokesperson issued the following statement:
“Work on bringing the Eurovision Song Contest to Asia is still ongoing and EBU are working closely with the organisers to help them bring it to fruition. It’s still early in the development process but once the team are at the point they are able to talk about timings we will be sure to make an announcement.”
The long journey of Eurovision Asia
In March 2016, the EBU first confirmed that SBS — the Eurovision broadcaster for Australia — had signed a deal with the European Broadcasting Union to develop and establish a song contest much like Eurovision, but for the Asia-Pacific region.
At the time, it was expected that the inaugural event would be hosted in Australia at some point in 2017.
Later in 2016, SBS’s content chief Helen Kellie confirmed that the broadcaster was looking at a 2017 launch, but said that 2018 was also a strong possibility.
At that point, SBS revealed the hurdles they faced in organising a pan-Asia-Pacific song contest. SBS had been in talks with broadcasters in China, South Korea and Japan. The talks revealed a series of obstacles, including political tensions between the region’s three big music markets. Chinese law prohibits the broadcast or streaming of South Korean pop music and entertainment.
Blink TV also revealed that they had been in talks with representatives from Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore as potential host cities for the show.
However, in June 2017, a spokesperson for Blink TV shot down any hopes of a 2017 debut. They told Australian media, “The answer is no, it’s not happening until 2018.”
But things were looking positive in August 2017, when the official Eurovision Asia Song Contest website was launched. While no launch date was given for the contest, the site said up to 20 counties would compete in the contest’s debut. Since then, the site has published no further news about the contest and has not been updated since October 2017.
In January this year, Kazakhstan media reported that broadcaster Khabar Agency was in talks with Eurovision Asia organisers regarding participation in the song contest. The Kazakh Ministry of Information and Communications also claimed that Eurovision Asia would be held in October 2018. However, this date was not confirmed by the EBU or Blink TV, and fans have noted that Kazakhstan has previously been a source of unfounded Eurovision rumours.
During Eurovision 2018, things got even more complicated. Chinese broadcaster Mango TV was swiftly banned from broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest after they cut two performances from the first semi-final. Mango TV had blocked Ireland and Albania’s performances, as they respectively showed a same-sex couple and visible tattoos, content not permitted on Chinese television.
This raises the issue of how Eurovision Asia could involve performances from countries with strict broadcasting regulations alongside those with more liberal codes.
Broadcasters from the following countries are said to be interested in participating in Eurovision Asia: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea and Vanuatu.
What do you think? Are you disappointed that Eurovision Asia is looking less likely to make a debut this year? Would you like to see the contest go ahead? Let us know in the comments below!