In recent years, there have been numerous rumours of the potential comeback of Luxembourg to the Eurovision stage. So it is no surprise that there is currently a petition for Luxembourg to return for next year’s contest in the Netherlands, supported by the winner of 1973 Anne-Marie David. But how high are the chances for a comeback?
Luxembourg was one of the 7 founding countries of Eurovision and competed all but one year until 1993. Along the way, they won the contest five times, all with singers from other countries. In 1994 the grand duchy was relegated from the competition but never returned. Since then fans from both Luxembourg and abroad have been keen to see the country return to Eurovision.
This petition isn’t the first to occur in Luxembourg since their withdrawal in 1993. In 2016 the government debated about a potential comeback, but the broadcaster RTL ruled out making a comeback due to financial reasons.
At the time, the then director of programming for RTL Luxembourg, Steve Schmit, explained that RTL is a small station that only produces two hours of local television per day. While RTL is a commercial channel that also has public service requirements, he explained that “our strategy is focused on information and magazines.”
Schmit continued to question the current voting system, which makes it “very unlikely that Luxembourg shines much. Small countries are somewhat more troubled now.”
But considering that Malta, Iceland and San Marino — all of which have a smaller population than Luxembourg — made the grand final this year, this argument seems to fall flat. Additionally, RTL Luxembourg might be a small broadcaster, but there are ways to realise participation — such as commercial sponsorship — if interest is there.
Luxembourg is special
In terms of the broadcasting system, Luxembourg is unique in Europe. There is no public television broadcaster in Luxembourg and RTL is a private channel. However, RTL signed an agreement to effectively function as a public broadcaster and airs content in Luxembourgish with a focus on information.
This contrasts Luxembourg to other non-participating smaller countries like Andorra, which recently ruled out a comeback. While the public broadcaster in Andorra relies heavily on public funds to realise participation, a private broadcaster like RTL has more possibilities.
Could the stars align?
RTL Luxembourg is part of the RTL Group, the biggest private network in Europe with more than 61 channels in different countries. The revenue in 2018 alone was more than 6.5 billion euros. This should be enough to pay the fee to participate in Eurovision, right?
Many shows produced by RTL in different countries are much more expensive than a comeback to Eurovision. Especially given that the contest will be held in the Netherlands and therefore will be cheaper to travel to. With a small investment of the RTL Group, they could enable Luxembourg’s return and introduce a worldwide audience to their country.
RTL could even use this strategy for its own benefit. The contest will receive huge media attention in the Netherlands because of hosting. RTL operates eight television channels in the Netherlands, including the most watched private channel RTL 4. They might see the potential in Eurovision. Cooperation between both channels concerning the selection of the Luxembourgish act might be a success for both. This would be similar to the cooperation between the German public broadcaster ARD and the private channel ProSieben from 2010 to 2012, which lead to exceptional ratings.
And things are changing at the RTL group. Since April first, the Chief Executive Officer is the Luxembourg-born Thomas Rabe. As well, in 2020 the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II will be celebrated. Is there a better way to celebrate peace than in a competition which has brought Europe together for almost 65 years?
And even if the RTL Group won’t support such cooperation amongst their channels, there is always the option of sponsorship by a company, a wealthy fan or a generous singer. Bosnia and Herzegovina, San Marino and Bulgaria have proven that such concepts can work.
But what if Luxembourg wins?
As Sweden has recently shown twice, a good Eurovision has been hosted on a budget. When a country as tiny as Malta has successfully hosted Junior Eurovision, and with the EBU on hand to help with sponsorship deals to cover costs, there’s no reason why Luxembourg wouldn’t be able to afford to host Eurovision if they won.
But while Luxembourg had venues large enough to host Eurovision in the 20th century, the grand duchy currently does not have an enclosed venue that meets modern Eurovision hosting capacity. The largest is d’Coque arena, with a capacity of 8,300, less than the 10,000 minimum preferred for Eurovision. This could point to a cohosting agreement, perhaps with another country in the Benelux region.
It’s worth remembering that in 1974, after Anne-Marie David won with “Tu te reconnaîtras”, Luxembourg chose not to host the competition a second year in a row. The hosting honours went to the UK, with ABBA storming to victory at the Brighton Dome.
But before worrying about winning, Luxembourg has to participate first. A lack of interest seems way more realistic than a lack of soldi.
What do you think? Will Luxembourg return in 2020 or not (again)? Tell us in the comments below!