BBC to announce that the UK is to withdraw from Eurovision
The BBC is set to announce plans to withdraw the UK from the Eurovision Song Contest, in a move which will anger and dismay nearly half of all Brits. Plans are afoot for Scotland to compete by itself.
PinkNews understands that the withdrawal will come into effect in the first few months of 2019, meaning the UK will have just two more shots at the trophy.
Eurovision will also not be shown on the BBC past next year, after months of tempestuous negotiations broke down last night.
A source close to BBC director-general Tony Hall said the Prime Minister had forced his hand by instructing the corporation this week to make at least £350,000 in annual cuts.
Hall felt he had no choice but to drastically reduce the BBC’s payments into the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)- which the same source said stands at close to £350,000 this year, up from £310,000 in 2010.
However, the EBU insisted that if the UK cut its contribution by more than half, it would no longer gain automatic entry to the final and have to compete in a Eurovision semi-final.
Throughout fraught discussions, which it has emerged first began in June, this was one demand which the BBC consistently refused to agree to.
Professor Kvitnya Duryty, a Ukranian Eurovision expert who has written 50 articles on the subject and teaches courses at Kiev University, said she wasn’t surprised by the news.
“The UK has become more and more resentful of taking part in this European endeavour – it has become a joke to many people, and everyone else is indifferent.
“Perhaps now this money can be spent on other things, like health.”
Graham Norton, who hosts the UK’s coverage of the event, said he was “distraught and angered” by the news.
“Eurovision will continue to exist, but we won’t be in it. It’s devastating,” he said.
“The contest is completely ridiculous, but I’ve loved making fun of it for the last few years, and I’ll miss it.”
However, he agreed with the BBC that the UK competing in a semi-final would likely backfire.
“Looking back at the UK’s recent Eurovision entries, they wouldn’t have a hope or a prayer in a semi-final!
“We’d probably lose to Germany on penalties anyway,” Norton quipped.
The Union flag has zoomed down to 24th in both of the last two years – out of 26 and 27 countries – and has come bottom three times this millennium.
The country’s last win came in 1997, with Katrina and the Waves’ Love Shine a Light.
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But Scott Mills, who commentated on Eurovision semi-finals for BBC Three, said this alone was no reason to withdraw, and that the UK should have agreed to the EBU’s terms.
“If we sulked and left every competition we don’t win for a while, we’d never play in the World Cup,” he said.
He thought it was a “tragedy” that the UK had pulled out, and vowed to “start my own song contest – even if I have to do it at my local pub!”
An aide to Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP had been in secret talks with STV – which is also a member of the EBU – to ensure that Scotland at least keeps broadcasting the event and for Scotland to have its own entry. It is understood that in a rare sign of cross-party unity Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale are supportive of the idea.
A source close to Ruth Davidson said that there is even talk about a referendum on whether Scotland should rejoin Eurovision.
62% of BBC One viewers in Scotland watched Eurovision last year compared to 48% across the whole of the United Kingdom.