Yesterday's announcement by Hungarian broadcaster MTV that the country will not participate at the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Norway is another sign that the Eurovision Song Contest is now facing a major crisis. Hungary are not the first and are unlikely to be the last nation to step away from the competition as national broadcasters suffer huge financial pressure due to the global credit crunch.
The Eurovision Song Contest has grown to new strengths in terms of the number of participating countries, viewing figures and commercial success in recent years. It has overcome the challenges of finding a way to include new nations and expand its format to create a fair and open competition. Just months after Alexander Rybak's record breaking win and the biggest commercial success of a Eurovision Song Contest winner for more than three decades, the competition seems to be stumbling into a new crisis.
After overcoming problems concerning neighbourly and diaspora voting, introducing juries and receiving plaudits for what has been described as two of the best finals in memory, the competition now faces a challenge of maintaining the strong position that it has found itself in as broadcasters struggle to find the participation fees and additional finances to fund delegation trips to the competition and national selection processes in the tough economic climate facing almost every European country.
Hungary's withdrawal follows that of the Czech Republic broadcaster, CT, who already announced in July that due to a lack of funding and poor viewing figures, they will not return to the competition next year. Lithuania, Estonia and potentially Latvia are all said to be considering whether to participate due to financial issues. (Read more about Hungary's withdrawal here and the Czech Republic withdrawal here)
Latvia did withdraw in 2009, only to retract its decision after financial restructuring and additional funding could be found. Although LTV have secured a cooperation agreement with Ventsplils City Council, the broadcaster is still lookinf dor additional sponsors to allow a 2010 Eurovision Song Contest bid. With national broadcasters receiving reduced income, they are being forced to cut programming expences, fees and making employee redundancies.
Andorra are also struggling to raise the funds needed to participate. The principality's national broadcaster spend € 140,000 on the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. The final decision will be taken by shareholders in the near future. (Read more about Andorra's possible withdrawal from the Eurovision Song Contest here).
San Marino participated in 2008 and are desperately keen to return to the competition in 2010 but financial concerns seem to be a major stumbling point to their return. Monaco has also ruled out a return to the competition in 2010 and there seems little likelihood at this stage of either Italy or Luxembourg returning to the Eurovision family fold. (Read more about San Marino's withdrawal from the Eurovision Song Contest here).
Armenia may decide to boycott the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest after concerns about Azeri broadcaster deliberately blocking the voting number for Armenia on screen have yet to be allayed. An EBU verdict on the investigation was due in Mid September, but no announcement about whether the claims were valid has been given. If proved to be correct, Azerbaijan would face either a fine or ban from the competition. Should one or both countries fail to participate at the Oslo Eurovision Song Contest in May, the number of competiting countries could fall back to just 34. (Read more about the expected EBU ruling on Azerbaijan here).
With fewer countries entering the competition, the cost of participation would increase for all other countries ans the fee is shared out through a specially devised formula based on national GDP and population size. This means that countries seeking to participate based on previous fees may yet find themselves priced out of the competition.
esctoday.com has today asked a series of questions to the EBU regarding the participation fee of the Eurovision Song Contest, the increasing costs that have put off some fans from attending the competition in recent years and what is being done to prevent the loss of more countries from taking part in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo.