It has been a concerning day for the Eurovision Song Contest, with both Latvia and Lithuania throwing doubt upon their ability to participate in the 2009 competition due to financial problems. Whilst no official comment from the EBU has been made regarding the potential loss of two Baltic nations from the competition, it does look more and more likely that Latvia is looking for a way to withdraw without facing financial penalty.
Similarly, in Lithuania, the country's participation seems to be under threat as LRT looks to cut costs in the wake of increasing financial problems. The Eurovision Song Contest has been cited as a project that could be cut in cost-saving measures.
For LTV, it seems the Latvian national finals have now been cancelled. They were to be pre-recorded with a live green room for the artists to wait in during the televised broadcast of their entries and the voting. In Lithuania, the selection show will go ahead, but the winner will not go to Moscow if the broadcaster decides that their Eurovision project is one that needs to be scrapped in order to save money.
Asked if they could confirm whether either country has confirmed that they have withdrawn, the EBU told esctoday.com "We will release the final list of represented countries as soon as each broadcaster gives final confirmation of its participation in Moscow."
Whilst the EBU has not made an official comment regarding the costs of participation and does not publish the fee for each broadcaster, neither country would be expected to pay a very different amount to previous years. Esctoday.com asked whether the EBU would publish the fees for 2009. We were told: "We do not publish the participation costs. It is at the discretion of each participating EBU Member to decide if they would like to reveal such details, or not."
The participation fees are worked out based on the population of the country and it's GDP. As such, the Big Four countries (France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom) pay a disproportionately large percentage of the competition fees, meaning that the costs for the smaller nations is as bearable as possible. Both countries would be expected to cover their participation fees if they withdraw at this stage.
The participation fee is of course just a portion of the total cost of taking part in the competition. The costs of accommodation, travel, promotion and other expenses may approach or even exceed the participation fee itself, and that may be a reason for the broadcasters to withdraw at this stage. There is also the possible fees paid to the representative, backing choir and dancers, choreographer, stylist, costumes and many other salaries and fees that would need to be covered.
Whilst similar stories have been told in recent years, in almost every occurance, the country tipped to withdraw has eventually participated, however with the international economies increasingly in crisis, there are worrying signs that withdrawals due to cost may affect the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Only when the EBU publishes the final list of participants will it be confirmed whether the two Baltic nations will take their place at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow.