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XTRA Debate – Divided Kingdom to Eurovision?

"Twelve points to Wales ; le Pays de Galles, douze points?"

After Eurovision Song Contest, another big event has now come to an end – the football World Cup. I was one of those people to hum “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming, football’s coming home…”, the famous “Three Lions”, the official song for 1996 Euro which was held in England and which was also the anthem for all the England supporters during the championship this year. Which has lead me to the following question – if UK is divided for football and competes as England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, can it be divided for Eurovision as well? We discuss the matter and present the arguments both FOR and AGAINST. 

How is the situation with the broadcasters like in the UK right now?

The BBC and ITV are broadcasters to cover the whole UK. While the former is a state channel, the latter is a commercial one. S4C is one of the oldest British broadcasters and is a Welsh channel, also set to debut in Junior Eurovision this year. STV as a part of ITV is the Scottish national broadcaster. Northern Ireland has UTV, with ITV again being the parent company. The BBC, ITV and STV are all active members of the EBU and the biggest difference between the BBC and ITV is adverts, so consequently STV is run by adverts as well. It should be noted, however, that UTV is not currently a member of the EBU. So with the BBC currently representing the whole of UK and its license fee coming from the whole of UK, it would be a big scandal if it only represented England, especially in Northern Ireland. Similarly, even if UTV was able to gain EBU membership, it would be problematic for the EBU to have ITV vicariously represent two nations.

My opinion on the matter

My opinion is that the idea of UK to compete separately is a nice idea, on paper that is. However in practice, it doesn’t sound as great as there could be a vast chance for English media to play the “politics” card even more than what they’re doing right now. I could imagine the potential low scores from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland be taken very badly by the English tabloids and English nationalists, who would consequently turn into the nationalists we usually experience in countries in Eastern Europe. However, it could encourage the broadcaster to represent England to perhaps try harder to do really well. But so far my position on the matter is mostly negative. We have enough political tensions in the contest already and with Brexit ongoing, it could turn quite nasty. So to sum it up – nice idea in theory, not so nice in practice.

Now let’s find out what my colleagues think.

FOR

LISA: As much as I love our weird dysfunctional family of home nations as one power, I do equally enjoy the competitive rivalries we have between us. I think it comes from being a sports fan and being exposed to the England versus Scotland banter in football, the rugby rivalries and the league table of medals that’s drawn up for the home nations in the Commonwealth Games. I’m very competitive myself, so I’d be all for us going our separate ways in Eurovision.

It’d be ideal from a voting aspect, the UK would have its own voting bloc to expand into our current powerhouse of Malta, San Marino, Ireland and Australia that give us a few occasional pity votes in the televoting! S4C is bringing the Welsh dragon to Junior Eurovision for the first time this year and it already competes in the Eurovision Choir, so it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination that one day it could happen in ESC proper. Scotland even had a plan for its broadcaster and Eurovision participation written into its failed Referendum attempt!

We know the talent is there across the board and who knows, it might seem more tempting to some bigger Scottish and Welsh names with a fresh approach away from the BBC. It could also encourage the BBC or what would be England to step up its game from just doing the bare minimum each year.

An independent UK?

AGAINST

VINCENT: The fantasy of a divided UK at Eurovision might give the opportunity to create funny fictive scoreboards, but that’s the only reason I could like the idea. Because it’s a bad idea, for the Contest and for the UK.

As it’s hard to imagine Northern Ireland participating (lack of a credible broadcaster), let’s just imagine a triple-participation: England, Scotland, and Wales. That’s two additional countries in the contest, bringing the total at 45, leaving only one spot before hitting the maximum 46 allowed by the rules. Who for? Bosnia? Turkey? Kazakhstan? Slovakia? Their participation is far more logical than those of territories. Because even if the Nations of the UK are not “just” territories, even if there is a historical, cultural, administrative strong distinction between them, they are not sovereign, unlike all ESC countries. This would open the 46th spot to the likes of Catalonia, and any move around there could provoke a national crisis. If Wales takes part in other Eurovision contests, it’s because the BBC as a whole has little interest in those.

Moreover, I don’t even think the British want this. I can’t speak for them, but a stay in Cardiff last year taught me that most Welsh feel British first, and I suppose it is the case for English people too. Same for many immigrants who identify themselves as British. The only exception is sports (an still, it is Great Britain that takes part in the Olympics or the Ice Hockey World Championship). Trying to create a new field of national rooting seems very artificial to me, and would probably damage the image of the contest. In France, many people say “The eastern countries exchange points but Belgium doesn’t even vote for us.” Replace the French by the English and Belgium by Scotland, and you still get casual viewers who see the contest as a farce, and who resent Eastern Europe.

A positive alternative to this fantasy would be to adopt a Swiss-like system: asking BBC Wales, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland and (possibly?) BBC One to each come up with one or two candidates/entries, and organize a British selection, either on TV or internally.

What do you think? Would you like to see UK as separate nations in Eurovision? Or do you think the idea is too far fetched to even consider it? Let us know in the comments below or on social media at @ESCXTRA. 

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