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Eurovision... So much more!

23 May 2008 at 14:40 CEST

The Eurovision Song Contest is the flagship event of the television department of the European Broadcasting Union. But...Eurovision TV is doing so much more! During the press conference, several other co-productions were put in the spotlight and the latest news about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, Eurovision Dance Contest and Eurovision Young Musicians were presented.

Erichsen explained at the EBU is much more than the Eurovision Song Contest, it is running a number of different activities. The EBU consists of 75 broadcasters, members, from 56 countries, and these members exchange for example breaking news without costs. Hence, each member receives the breaking news in what is the "biggest exchange network in the world". Moreover Mr. Bjørn Erichsen emphasised that the EBU is buying big sports rights, for example the Olympics. In addition to this, the EBU helps its members to deal with technical difficulties such as the work with fiber networks and server activities. Also, EBU members exchange music, the EBU runs a legal service to take care of problems concerning copyright problems for example, and the EBU agrees on common technical standards where members agree on certain standards so you can use the same television equipment in each country.

Thereafter, Ericsen told someting about the EBU's 75 running co-productions where Eurovision Song Contest is one of them. For example there is the  Junior Eurovision Song Contest where the right to host the television programme is not travelling with the winner due to lighten the pressure on the young performers. Mr. Bjørn Erichsen also emphasised that the income of the televoting goes to Unicef. The next Junior Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Lemesos, Cyprus, on the 22nd of November 2008. Another co-production is the Eurovision Dance Contest which will take place in Glasgow on the 6th of September, 2008. Moreover, there is the Eurovision Young Musicians, which take place every second year. Mr. Bjørn Erichsen explained about the last edition of this edition which took place two weeks ago in Vienna, Austria. In front of the beautiful townhall of Vienna, 75,000 people showed up! In addition to this, the EBU co-productions concern various concert rights and the co-producing fiction series. For example, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen explained about big drama French-Swiss co-production of Heidi, and a Serbian-Bosnian co-production called Tour, which is about a comedy group travelling around in the Balkans during the Bosnian war. This is a "fairly courageous" production to do, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen said with enthusiasm. Documentaries and fiction, like Animal and Taboo, are also co-produced by the EBU, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen said.

At the press conference, the TV Director also talked about formats and the selling of them. If you sell a format, you first sell an option. Then if this is successful, a licence agreement is fixed, Erichsen explained. He also emphasised that if you have a license agreement, it means that you are very serious about it and sincerely want to invest in it. At the moment, there are negotiations with American broadcaster CBS, and a license agreement has been sold to North Arab African countries for the Eurovision Song Contest. In June, Erichsen stressed, a license agreement will be sold to the Far East also regarding the Eurovision Song Contest. Hopefully at one point there will be a world-wide format for the Eurovision Song Contest, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen said with a smile on his lips, and he emphasised that the important thing is to "keep the format alive and fresh and adding new activities all the time". Also, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen was talking about the production of an Eurovision Song Contest movie produced by the company Working Title, and there are discussions about a Eurovision Song Contest musical, too.

After this, the floor was opened for questions. A British journalist asked whether there would be a possibility of a shift from BBC to ITV in the United Kingdom, but Erichsen said that this was not the case. Moreover, a another journalist asked whether the 'Big 4' four perhaps should include Russia and why the draw for the running order was not broadcast. About this, Erichsen said that this has not been discussed, but after the introduction of two Semi-Finals, the question about the Big Four already qualified in the Final once more is raised. There are also other heavily contributing countries, he said, and the reference group has to discuss this again at some point. But "I think still that the host broadcaster should always be in the final", he continued. Moreover, the EBU Manager of Communications and PR, Sietse Bakker, emphasised that the draw for the running order was not aired due to the large gap in between the Semi-Final and the actual draw at the press conference and that there is nothing interesting to put in between. "Most people who care enough about the running order are here at this event, and I am not sure that thousands of people would wait for it", Mr. Sietse Bakker explained. "But if that is a wish we could look into that next year", he said.

A Polish journalist asked Erichsen to make a comment on how the collaboration between Unicef and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest had begun. Mr. Bjørn Erichsen told that the EBU and Unicef have found an agreement that Unicef should play a bigger role in the event, but still to keep the format as we know it today. "But we are very happy with the cooperation and the financial surplus goes to a good purpose" he said.

In addition to this, a reporter asked whether it was possible to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest in other parts of the world, for example the United States. Erichsen told that every international broadcaster is able to buy the rights of showing the show, but having seen any interest from the US. He also stated that the EBU is ready to sell the broadcast rights, but he also emphasised that the Eurovision Song Contest only is going to include EBU members. Otherwise it would be too big an event.

Another reported asked the question whether it shoud be made easier for private channels to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest, considering that some public broadcasters may withdraw from the contest due to lack of interest from the viewers. To this Mr. Bjørn Erichsen that that this is not the case, and that this is a format developed by public host broadcasters and the EBU will not open the door for our private, commercial competitors. "This is a priviledge for our members", he stressed.

An Italian reporter asked if there are any news about Italian broadcaster RAI and their lack of participation in the Eurovision Song Contest and in what degree RAI is a part of the song contest. RAI involved in more than 20 co-productions in the EBU, Mr. Bjørn Erichsen explained, as for example fiction, documentary, educational co-productions. But the EBU is doing all it can to get Italy back in the contest, but RAI has not yet been convinced. "But there is 100 bottles of champagne for the employee who can convince Italy to come back", he told the press. "We are inviting them to come and see this new version, but they don't come", Erichsen said.

In regard to the question from a reporter about the 'Big 4' not doing well at the Eurovision Song Contest and that the BBC might take a step back and not participating, Bjørn Erichsen said, that the EBU is already treating the 'Big 4' as handicapped and giving them direct qualification in the final. Therefore they just have to make better songs in order to do better, he argued.

A journalist asked why non-qualifying semi-finalists are able to vote in the Final. "They are a part of the show and contribute to the song contest, and they have an opinion about good music", Mr. Bjørn Erichsen said. "One thing is you loose, but you shouldn't be kicked out", he stressed and continued that the broadcasters are obliged to broadcast the Final, and therefore they should also be able to vote.

At the end of the press conference a video was shown about the EBU activities.