Former Kings and Queens of Eurovision, the United Kingdom has obtained infamy within the Eurovision fanbase of late. At the last contest, the five-time winning nation gained the dubious honour for being the first country to gain nul points in the current voting system.
Many theories have been put forward behind the UK’s recent woes, but most of the criticism has been levied at their national broadcaster, the BBC. Former supervisor for Melodifestivalen, Christer Björkman, even said that it’s “remarkable” how badly the BBC handle Eurovision.
This year, however, it looks like the BBC are making efforts to turn things around. Back in October, they announced a Eurovision partnership with global music company TaP Music, and on Thursday, the BBC also announced another major move.
This year, the UK’s production and broadcast base for the Eurovision Song Contest has moved from London to Salford.
UK’s Eurovision base moves from London to Salford
In the early days of Eurovision, London was one of Eurovision’s spiritual homes. With four hostings, it held the record of the city which hosted the contest the most times until it was equalled by Luxembourg in 1984 and surpassed by Dublin in 1995. These days, with the UK last reaching the Top 10 over a decade ago, the UK really needs a shake-up. From 2022, Salford will be the new British home of Eurovision.
Rachel Ashdown, Commissioning Editor at the BBC said, “The North West of England is famously renowned for its unrivalled musical heritage not just in the UK but across the globe, so it is fitting that from now on the region will be part of the biggest music contest on the planet.”
The Greater Manchester region has undoubtedly been the birthplace of some of the greatest musical figures in British history. The Smiths, Joy Division, Oasis, Take That and Pale Waves all herald from the region. Manchester Arena is the largest arena of its type in Europe and voted “International Venue of the Year” in 2007. Although Manchester is yet to host Eurovision, it would be easy to see it happening with such a good venue and musical heritage.
The BBC has a well-established production and broadcast hub in Salford. Other shows made in the city include Blue Peter, BBC Breakfast and Match of the Day. The BBC’s Eurovision coverage will continue to be commissioned by the Director of Entertainment, Kate Phillips. Other shows controlled by Kate Phillips and BBC Studios Entertainment production are The Graham Norton Show and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Andrew Cartmell, the UK Head of Delegation since 2019, will remain in his position.
It is not yet known how the move will affect the BBC’s approach to Eurovision on the whole, other than the spokesperson saying “Good evening from Salford” instead of “Good evening from London”, and perhaps a conspicuous clock will no longer be in the background. But, it is good to see the BBC taking initiative in changing their approach to Eurovision, which is something fans have been hoping for a long time.
The move reflects a broader trend at the BBC to move services and programmes away from London. In recent months the corporation has gone through a major shake-up within its news division. For instance, Newsbeat, its youth-oriented news service, is relocating its hub from London to Birmingham, while the technology show Click is moving to Glasgow. Such moves help the BBC reflect more of the country (aka not just the capital). It also helps reduce costs over the long term.
The BBC at Eurovision
The BBC has consistently organised the UK’s Eurovision participation and is amongst the 21 founding broadcasters of the EBU. However, the BBC has come under pressure in recent years to improve their results at the contest. Paddy O’Connell, former Eurovision commentator, has even suggested that the BBC hand control to ITV, also a member of the EBU.
The BBC’s funding has also been a contentious issue in British parliament this year. Nadine Dorries, UK culture secretary, has confirmed the BBC licence fee will be frozen for the next three years. While support for the BBC still remains high, the rise of streaming services as a competitor to TV is proving a challenge for public broadcasting.
Despite the UK’s dismal run at Eurovision of late, the popularity of Eurovision in the UK remains consistently high. Last year, 7.4 million viewers watched the Grand Final on BBC One, the highest since 2014. It also had an audience share of 48.5%, the highest since 1999. Thus, the prospect of the UK giving up on the contest seems incredibly low. Let’s hope 2022 will be the start of a British renaissance at Eurovision!
So what do you think? Do you think this move is a good sign for the UK at Eurovision? Let us know below!