Back in June, Belarus’ Eurovision broadcaster BTRC was expelled from the European Broadcasting Union. That means the Minsk-based station will no longer be eligible to access a number of EBU services, including entry to the Eurovision Song Contest and Junior Eurovision. This effectively ruled out a Belarusian participation at Eurovision 2022 in Italy.
Now the general director of BTRC — Ivan Eismont — has clarified that the suspension is currently set to last for three years. Speaking to SB.by, he said that the ban runs for three years, starting on July 1, 2021. That means BTRC cannot return as a full member of the EBU until July 1, 2024 unless the EBU reviews the suspension and decides to shorten it.
Belarus suspended from the European Broadcasting Union
As reported by independent Belarusian radio station Euroradio, on Wednesday 30 June, the EBU held a meeting to discuss BTRC’s future in the union.
There the EBU decided that from Thursday 1 July, BTRC would no longer be able to access EBU services. These services include the exchange of news and music content, the right to broadcast EBU sporting and music events, legal and technical research expertise and interest protection services.
This also includes Belarus’s right to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, among other things. For a country to be allowed to compete in Eurovision, it must be represented by a broadcaster with EBU membership. With BTRC’s exit, Belarus has no member stations represented in the EBU.
To date, Belarus is one of only two countries to have competed in every edition of Junior Eurovision since its founding in 2003.
This is the first time a country has been unable to compete in Eurovision due to being expelled from the EBU.
Why did the EBU expel Belarus’ BTRC?
BTRC’s expulsion from the EBU, while sudden, is not unexpected.
In May 2021, the EBU’s Executive Board suspended BTRC from the union following the arrest of opposition activist Roman Protasevich and the silencing of Belarus’ largest independent media portal.
In their original statement, the EBU wrote:
“The EBU has been closely monitoring the suppression of media freedom in Belarus and have consistently called on BTRC, as a Member of the EBU, to uphold our core values of freedom of expression, independence and accountability.
Since the disputed elections last summer, we have been campaigning for the protection of independent journalism and freedom of expression in the country. We have publicly supported journalists at BTRC who have been protesting against government interference. We have also been monitoring BTRC’s coverage and have communicated our concerns to their management.
In recent weeks, we have been particularly alarmed by the broadcast of interviews apparently obtained under duress.
We have also monitored other BTRC broadcasts on this issue which have raised other serious and quite exceptional concerns.
In light of these exceptional developments, the Executive Board has no alternative other than to propose the suspension of BTRC’s membership of the EBU.”
The original proposed suspension allowed the government-linked broadcaster two weeks to respond. While they did not do so publicly, it is not known if they responded privately to the EBU.
The broadcaster was also forced to withdraw from the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 in Rotterdam after the EBU declared Galasy ZMesta’s entry “Ya nauchu tebya” to be in breach of Eurovision rules and going against the apolitical nature of the song contest. The group’s subsequent entry “Pesnyu pro zaytsa” also contained pro-government messaging, which ultimately led to the country’s disqualification from the 2021 contest.
While this incident is not listed as an official reason for BTRC’s suspension and later expulsion, it is reflective of many of the issues listed above in the EBU’s original statement.
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