The Eurovision Song Contest has been awarded the 2016 Charlemagne Medal (Médaille Charlemagne pour les Médias Européens) for media that has contributed to European unity at a ceremony in Aachen, Germany on Thursday 28 April.
ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus presented the medal to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)’s Director General Ingrid Deltenre and Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand at Aachen Town Hall.
In his laudatory speech Ulvaeus, who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, spoke of the power of the event in bringing Europe together:
“For me the Eurovision Song Contest is a powerful symbol and I would say, even a weapon in the fight against the dark forces that want to drag us back to the Middle Ages again. It is more relevant than ever. I feel that during those hours, those bright, uplifting hours when the Eurovision final is on the air, that’s one of the few times nowadays when Europe gets a sense of what it’s like to be unified; To live in harmony.”
Ulvaeus added, “Music has the power to unify – it knows no borders. For 60 years the marriage of television and music through the Eurovision Song Contest has brought nations closer together and this is apparent through the numbers of people the event reaches, 199 million in 2015, and also through the number of nations that now take part; From 7 countries in 1956 to the 42 competing in Stockholm in 2 weeks’ time.”
"It is a great honour to receive this renowned award, from the Charlemagne Medal Committee, as we prepare to celebrate the 61st Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm,” said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre.
“60 years ago the first Eurovision Song Contest was held with the aim of bringing nations together. Music knows no national boundaries and provides a common language for us all. The friendships formed between the competing artists from over 40 nations come through the screen to audiences watching at home. The fact that the Eurovision Song Contest is so popular in an increasingly polarized world illustrates that the differences are smaller than we think,” she added.
"Our motto in Stockholm this year is 'Come Together' and I am so proud that The Eurovision Song Contest still provides a unique opportunity for audiences from across Europe and beyond to do just that during three great live shows every year. The EBU is thrilled to be awarded this medal by Björn Ulvaeus from arguably the most successful Eurovision winners of all time, ABBA. He still provides inspiration for today’s artists competing in the world’s biggest music entertainment show.” said Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Michael Kayser, Chairman of the Charlemagne Medal Committee explained why the Eurovision Song Contest was chosen as the 2016 recipient:
“If you look at the public discussion in and around Europe, it is evident that, in a large number of countries, this is driven primarily by notions of asserting one’s own national interests. This makes it very hard for a genuine feeling of European togetherness to emerge among the citizens. As a Europe-wide music show, the Eurovision Song Contest unites people. It brings them together through the music and the show - a feat which is currently hard to achieve at a national level.”
The award ceremony in Aachen was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of music on European unity. Ingrid Deltenre, Jon Ola Sand and Björn Ulvaeus were joined by German Eurovision Song Contest winner Nicole, who triumphed in 1982 and German Eurovision Chief Thomas Schreiber from EBU Member NDR.
In 1956, the European Broadcasting Union, the world’s leading alliance of public service broadcasters, created the Eurovision Song Contest to foster closer ties between nations and to advance television technology. The Eurovision Song Contest is the world’s largest non-sporting live TV event. It is a musical competition between public broadcasting organisations which are Members of the EBU. The Eurovision Song Contest was first held in Lugano, Switzerland in 1956 and has been held every year since. 40 cities have welcomed the competition in 25 different countries. 51 countries have competed at least once. 26 countries have won the Eurovision Song Contest at least once. In 2015, The Eurovision Song Contest reached 199 million TV viewers and on the occasion of its 60th edition was awarded the Guinness World Record for “World’s Longest Running Annual TV Music Competition”. 42 countries will participate in the 61st Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm, Sweden on 10, 12 and 14 May.
The Charlemagne Medal has been awarded annually since 2000. Previous winners include journalist Lord George Weidenfeld of Chelsea, writer Cees Noteboom, TV and film producer Jan Mojto, film director Jean-Jaques Annaud, the former administrator of Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Fritz Pleitgen, actress Krystyna Janda, the foundation of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, directors Abdellatif Kechiche and Fatih Akin, the organisation "Reporters Without Borders", musician André Rieu, publisher Inge Feltrinelli, the editors of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, British historian and writer Timothy Garton Ash, the European Film Academy and the OSCE representative of Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović.