SBS Australia: the What and Why of This Year�s ESC Coverage

by John Egan 310 views

In an exclusive, producer Jane Roscoe explains why SBS covers the Eurovision Song Contest the way they do�and why they don�t do it the way some fans would prefer.

Since 1983 SBS has broadcast the annual Eurovision Song Contest in Australia. The Contest remains one of the important annual television events, both to Australians and to SBS itself. As the Contest has evolved over the years, so too has SBS�s coverage.

For a number of years, the Irish RTÉ (Radio Telefís Éireann) feed was used, though more often it�s been the BBC�s feed with Terry Wogan as commentator. From Wogan, to Mary Coustas as Effie, to Des Mangan and now back to Wogan, the commentary has varied, but the show remains hugely popular in Australia� even though the Contest is shown on delay, usually 12 or so hours after the live event in Europe.

The show is important to SBS because Australia�s multicultural communities enjoy watching their country of origin compete in this European event. It also has a cult following within Australia, beyond those ethnic communities, and this audience may not be regular viewers of SBS�so SBS uses the ESC to effectively draw in new viewers for its other programs.

However, many in the Australian ESC fan community have complained about SBS�s coverage over the years, both in our forums and SBS�s own Eurovision forum. Last year there was a series of preview shows hosted by Des Mangan, similar to what the European broadcasters of the Contest are required to do. Each song is featured in a preview video, and a panel discusses the merits of each song and performer. For many in Australia the preview shows were both a great way to get a glimpse of the Contest, as well as build excitement for the Contest broadcasts themselves.

Why then has SBS decided to drop the preview shows from last year? According to Jane �the preview shows were very costly to produce, and as SBS operates on a restricted budget we had to make some difficult decisions. Unfortunately not enough people watched them., and not producing the preview shows was one of them.�

Another complaint has been about showing events likes the Ashes and Olympics live, but not Eurovision�even though sporting events from Europe are often at the same time. Often such events are repeated during normal viewing times for those who don�t want to get up so early.

When asked about carrying the show live as well as on delay, Jane cited �all sorts of logistical reasons,� including the expense of having a studio team to manage the live broadcast from the satellite, and the quality of the life feed. SBS prefers to �review the feed and optimize the audio, which means a better quality (but delayed) broadcast. � Jane also believes that �unlike a sporting event, people can enjoy watching Eurovision regardless of whether they know the result or not��

Finally, since SBS�s mandate includes a commitment to �contribute to meeting the communications needs of Australia's multicultural society,� doesn�t using a British (Wogan) commentary contradict this principle? �Not really, if you look at the overall event. Eurovision features performances of songs from nearly 40 nations, many of whom have strong ex-patriot communities in Australia. That is the bulk of the broadcast�the songs. The commentary, while important, is relatively small portion of the entire program. We have experimented with many different commentators over the years, but our viewer feedback suggests that our audience prefers Terry Wogan.�

ESCToday would like to thank Jane Roscoe and SBS for taking the time to answer our questions.

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