When Sweden hosts the Eurovision Song Contest, broadcaster SVT wants to direct a large part of the attention at the participating artists and countries. “Making Eurovision into something that just shows off Sweden doesn’t feel right, nor is it in line with the original idea of Eurovision”, says executive producer Martin Österdahl.
The Swedish organisational group aims to renew the Eurovision Song Contest and go back to the competition’s founding values: to bridge over cultural differences and emanate a message that all people are equal.
“There should be focus on everyone”
Martin Österdahl believes that there are a number of ways to put the core values into practice.
"To start off with, you can turn the focus away from using the program to market your own country at any cost, instead highlighting the diversity and wealth of all nationalities and cultures”, he says.
"We are going to be in Sweden and of course we need to explain this and show ourselves off. But it should not just be about our country, and we should not pat ourselves on the back and say that Sweden is best. We need to focus on all the countries taking part”.
In Oslo in 2010 NRK created a flash mob dance that later became the interval act in the final. Martin Österdahl points this out as a good example along with the Norwegian theme “Share the Moment”.
"They created an expectation with the dance that was taught before the competition. Later we got to see people performing it all across Europe. I think that this was right on the money”, he says.
"Getting closer to the artists"
At the same time, SVT believes it is important to talk about Sweden, if it is done in the right way.
"We have always said that we do not want to lose the Swedish perspective", says Martin Österdahl.
The program’s postcards - or short films that are shown before each performance – have often been used as a tourist advert during the Eurovision Song Contest.
"We have a few different lines that we are working with for the postcards and have spoken about how we, in addition to showing a picture of Sweden, want to promote the wealth of the contest, which consists of all the participating countries and cultures. We want to get closer to the artists, the music and the competition. We want better dramatisation and for those watching to feel more excitment and drama", says Martin Österdahl.
Postcards that create relationships
Martin Österdahl goes back to the competition’s message and then as an example discusses a hypothetical Bulgarian entry.
“When the Bulgarian woman goes up to sing her ballad, we want there to be some form of relationship with her. She should not be anonymous when she stands there. We should have some sort of idea about what it’s all about; what it means to her, to her countrymen, to the people standing on a square in Sofia and watching Eurovision on a big screen.”
"It is that, which creates real relationships and curiousity, and embraces the fantastic contents that can be found in this program. There is an enormous potential that is not exploited in full”.
A lot of work remains
There are big ambitions for the postcards and the other parts of the program. At the same time, Martin Österdahl and the rest of the organisational committee are aware that there is limited space available to them in the live shows.
"There are many elements that we are developing and nothing is finalised. You need to remember that we do not have much time in the live shows. There are many songs and an extensive voting sequence. However, with the time we do have, we want to make the most of it”.
"How we achieve this and how many of our ambitions we get to implement, we do not know. There are thousands of ideas and of course we cannot tell all the stories about all the countries. We are going to have to choose a path and the one that is closest to our fingertips is building relationships, the narrative and dramatisation of the competition, linked to each delegation’s artist and song. Through the song you can get an impression of its country of origin”.
"Most of our plans will not become clear for many months. The key concept that we have come up with is there to reign in what we can do, but I do not have any answers yet”.
Thanks to Gustav Dahlander from SVT for providing the above information. Translation provided by Simon Storvik-Green (EBU).