A little more than a month into my new role as Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) I am yet to set foot in my new office in Geneva. Beginning a new job is always difficult, I certainly could not have envisaged starting work with my new team via video call back in January when the EBU offered me this incredible new opportunity.
Nor could we have seen that the Eurovision Song Contest would regrettably not take place at all this year – for the first time ever.
Our colleagues at NPO, NOS and AVROTROS did a fantastic job presenting an alternative to the Contest in just 6 weeks. Europe: Shine A Light was both a moving and entertaining tribute to those artists and songs that could not compete this year.
The Eurovision Song Contest was missed though. Missed by the hundreds of staff at EBU Members who dedicate hundreds more hours to prepare for the show. And missed by the millions of loyal viewers around the world.
It must return next year and every year.
The world around us has changed. The focus of the ESC team and the Host Broadcasters in the Netherlands now is to bring the Contest back stronger than ever in 2021. Our current efforts are not just focused on delivering a Contest next spring in Rotterdam but also securing the ESCs longevity for decades to come.
As organizers of the world’s largest live music event we are determined and united in our mission; to bring back a Contest, a new winner and a handover to a new Host Broadcaster, whatever the circumstances. These elements are in our DNA and part of our legacy. We will adapt and continuously strive to be relevant and sustainable.
This past year has shown how sensitive live events are in general. In previous years we could make plans to move the Contest in the event of a local crisis. The lessons learned from the spring of 2020 are that we need to plan for a global crisis and we have tailored the rules of the Contest to that effect. We must be able to be more flexible and to make changes even to the format itself and how we organize the event in these challenging times.
We also must take into account the financial challenges public service media face as a result of the corona crisis. We have to adapt even if, as preferred, we are able to come back with our A-scenario; a Contest as we know and love it, in a packed arena with fans and delegations.
To this effect and to enable more flexibility there is one specific new rule change for 2021. We have decided on a one-year trial basis to lift the ban of backing vocals (harmonies) from the backing tracks.
This new rule is optional, so delegations can still decide to have all BVs live on or off stage in the arena, if that is preferred. When making the rule change maintaining authenticity and fairness has always been front of mind. Consequently, all lead vocals performing the melody of the song, including an eventual use of a so-called lead dub, shall still be live on or off stage in the arena.
The idea behind the change is to offer Members the possibility to explore new creative ideas and to travel with a smaller delegation for 2021. The change also reduces technical burdens on the Host Broadcaster, which again, is extra important this year, of course.
The change underlines the continuing and essential modernization of the Contest too.
This 64-year-old show is fresher and more state of the art than it has ever been. In 2013 and 2016, when I was Executive Producer for the Contest at SVT, we implemented changes to how the running order of songs is chosen and later the way the voting is presented. Both of these adaptions to one of TV’s oldest entertainment formats helped to create a more exciting show for viewers.
It is my mission, as I step into the big shoes left by Jon Ola Sand, to ensure the Eurovision Song Contest remains agile but true to its traditions, its values, and its history.
When we bring the Contest back in 2021, we are bringing it back for good.