Editorials & Opinion

Czech Republic’s ČT must be applauded for being Eurovision pioneers with ESCZ

ESCZ has the "most excitement per euro" amongst all of Europe's national selections

Yesterday, Lake Malawi became the second winners of Eurovision Song CZ, the Eurovision Song Contest selection format launched by ČT for the first time ahead of the 2018 contest. Eurovision Song CZ uses a format never seen before and the Czech broadcaster must be applauded for their innovation.

It all started with a surprise comeback

After five years away from the world’s biggest entertainment show, ČT launched a surprise comeback in 2015. Of course, with the Czech public having very limited interest in the competition, it was natural for the broadcaster to opt for a series of internal selections. The internal selection of Gabriela Gunčíková in 2016 secured the Czech Republic their first ever Eurovision grand final appearance.

In 2018, ČT took another leap forward, launching their first national final since 2008. But this wasn’t an ordinary national final. Instead, Eurovision Song CZ, or ESCZ, was held purely online. It was the first of its kind: innovative and, most importantly, successful. Mikolas Josef easily broke the Czech Republic’s record finish, placing sixth in Lisbon with the undeniable pop hit Lie to Me. Noticeably; it was a break away from the three internally selected ballads in the preceding years.

“Most excitement per euro”

It is understandable that the Czech broadcaster has a limited budget to spend on Eurovision, having to contend with a lack of history and a lack of interest on the public’s part, natural for a nation relatively new to the contest. Approximately 110,000 viewers saw Mikolas Josef qualify from the first semi-final last year in a country of over 10 million. However, arguably Eurovision Song CZ has the most excitement per euro amongst all of Europe’s national finals.

There I was yesterday, on my lunch hour, clutched to my phone to tune into the live results on the Eurovision Song Contest Czech Republic Facebook page along with more than 1,000 other fans. Yes, the scoreboard may have been on a projector and not broadcast via the highest quality stream ever seen, but it was efficient, it was effective and it was exciting! 

Using an online selection also provides opportunities not available to televised finals. The Czech team were able to spread out the excitement of results over a number of days. Not only does this increase the publicity of the selection across various media outlets, but is the perfect interest-grabber for fans in the normally empty middle of the week. Additionally, they have given international fans the opportunity to vote, which for 2019 contributed to the overall outcome of the result!

ESCZ feels organic and adventurous

Furthermore, the entries in the selection also feel unique to the Czech Republic. The majority of the songs this year had Czech input in their creation, and the indie-pop feel to ESCZ 2019 can only be compared to Estonia’s Eesti Laul. Even then, ESCZ was undoubtedly unique in its collection of songs.

Most importantly, the entries in ESCZ feel organic to the artist, which is a big positive. A major criticism aimed at some nations, such as the United Kingdom’s You Decide, is that all songs in their national selections are “written for Eurovision” at Eurovision-specific writing camps. Meanwhile, songs winning the Eurovision Song Contest in recent years are rarely the “middle-of-the-road” pop songs that these camps tend to create.

One potential drawback commonly noted is the lack of opportunity to see these acts perform live prior to choosing a representative. In some circumstances, however, this could be seen as a positive. In ESCZ’s case, the entry is purely chosen based on the song – it is a song contest after all – and then all of the tips and tricks that are available in a Eurovision Song Contest arena are likely to mask any potential shortcomings.

Congratulations to ČT!

With the news that ESCZ is taking another leap forward in 2020 to a live televised final, it will be a shame to lose the unique style of the online format. Nevertheless, this is a great sign for interest in the contest amongst the Czech broadcaster and the general public and the nation’s long-term participation. Hopefully the song quality will stay as high and as unique as it has been during ESCZ 2019!

We should congratulate the Czech Republic for their Eurovision approach since 2015, slowly building up the national interest in the contest with a long-term plan in mind. Their online selection has been thrilling for the past two years and ČT have been great pioneers for the contest.

The results of ESCZ 2019, exclusively published online!

Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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