Editorials & Opinion

Is the British public to be trusted?

It was announced yesterday that the United Kingdom will go back to a national final in search of their lost Eurovision glories. Turning to Hugh Goldsmith, who has a good track record in terms of production success, the UK seem to be (desperately) trying to stop being Europe’s laughing stock make an appearance in the podium once again.
The first of my concerns comes from the very little detail we have so far about the consultation process. As the news broke and information started flowing it seemed like a relief to know that key industry figures’ advice will be sought. I am thinking (hoping) by key industry figures they mean Simon Cowell (love him or hate him, he can spot talent miles away and has a gift for making hits) and not the experts that selected ‘Still In Love With You’ and had the balls to brand it as edgy. So far, so good, right? Well no, because as soon as you continue reading it turns out that “fan associations” will also be part of that consultation. It was later on revealed that this will imply OGAE UK’s involvement, although the degree of the participation remains uncertain at this point.
To what purpose? So that they can give great input on what the next schlagertastic sensation of Eurovision can be? So that the BBC can then claim when if they fail again that, after all, this is what the British fans wanted? Don’t get me wrong, I love my good schlager song and will continue to dance to them every change that I get. But the contest has moved on and needs to continue to move on if it wants to become relevant for the British audience ever again. Wogan and  Norton have done (and continued to do) too much damage to the contest’s brand in the UK to allow for an unlimited number of faux pas. Unless there’s a u-turn, the BBC will eventually end up losing what (I imagine) they think of as a captive audience. The TV offering is not what it used to be. People WILL switch channels. So the attitude needs to change, and as much as it pains me to say it, sometimes the fans are the contest’s worst enemy. So unless the advice will be something along the lines of what Matteo suggested here, I think the fans should be kept out of the decision-making process altogether.
To add to my worries, the news also revealed that the ultimate decision will be left in the hands of the public. And I’m not 100% sure what to make of this. Whilst, on the one hand, it could be much more reflective of what the Brits actually want to listen, there is a danger that rancid attitudes towards the contests (again, speared by Wogan and Norton) may lead people to vote for a joke entry “because this contest is a joke and the Eastern European countries all vote for each other and everybody hates us anyway so we might as well take the piss out of it” (see, Scooch).
Is the British audience to be trusted? It was, once upon a time, and it is reflected in the amazing track record of the UK way back when. But a bunch of people that have chosen the brilliance of Jemini, Daz Sampson, Scooch, Andy Abraham and Jade (she was ok, but Mark was miles better!) should be looked at by a psychiatrist with, at least, suspicion.
Is the British audience to be trusted? I am cautiously saying yes. But suspect that come May my answer will be no.

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