Editorial : Open Letter to Jon Ola Sand and the EBU/Eurovsion.tv Team

Irish Eurovision Fans look forward to Eurovision 2011 in Dusseldorf. Photograph Eurovision Ireland

Irish Eurovision Fans look forward to Eurovision 2011 in Dusseldorf. Photograph Eurovision Ireland

Eurovision.tv (official EBU website) published and article asking their readers “Tell us, what does Eurovision mean to you?” That simple question got me thinking and my thoughts ranged from “Euphoria” through to “Running Scared”. I guess I need to put this into perspective for you the reader.

For my close friends – whom many are friends that I have made over the years at Eurovision – will be aware that I have recently been unwell which resulted in me having extensive emergency surgery and spending time in Intensive Care. Thankfully I am slowly on the way to recovery. How does Eurovision come into this I hear you ask?

Well for 2 weeks I could not move in my hospital bed and all I could do was listen to music on my i-phone. From drifting in and out of consciousness I found myself waking up during certain songs with my toes tapping at the end of the bed – literally the only part of my body I could move.

Garrett and Kurt Calleja at Eurovision 2012. Photograph Eurovision Ireland

Garrett and Kurt Calleja at Eurovision 2012. Photograph Eurovision Ireland

The first song that I woke to, was that of Kurt Calleja from Malta – “This is the night” from 2012. For all my Eurovision friends they will know that I have a strong affinity to the tiny island with a big heart. Kurt and the Maltese team making the Eurovision Grand Final in 2012 was a special memory for me, so a fitting first awakening for me in hospital.

There followed several other moments that I woke in hospital to other Eurovision songs – however these times the songs reminded me of the friends that I have made from across Europe – all because of our love of the Eurovision Song Contest. These people come from different cultures, backgrounds, religions and sexual preferences. However we all come together to “Share The Moment” – the highs and lows. However we have always felt free to be whom we are and not feel scared to express ourselves. Not wanting to sound dramatic but Eurovision Music helped me come through a difficult time in hospital and I guess I could be still there if it were not for these memories and my friends who rallied around me.

Eurovision Ireland always strives to look on the positives of all Eurovision songs, singers and events. We never lose sight of the fact that it is about the artists and not about us the journalists/fans writing. However with so many people following our site – over 1 million hits now – we thought that it was necessary to ask the EBU and Jon Ola Sand to help the loyal Eurovision Fan Base.

We all know the history of our beloved Eurovision – Marcel Bezençon gave birth to the concept of a contest that would bring war torn Europe together through their love of song and help create a greater acceptance of different cultures. Remember that word “acceptance” as this is now more important than ever at Eurovision.

The end of the Cold war in the 1990’s saw the Eurovision Song Contest grow with former USSR and Yugoslav states being embraced by the EBU and ultimately the person sitting at home looking at the Eurovision Song Contest on television. It truly was amazing to see all these new countries being given a platform to express their individuality and uniqueness.

Now more than ever we need to celebrate, embrace and PROTECT this uniqueness and equality – cornerstones of Eurovision. How is it under threat? Well parts of Europe are on the cusp of marginalizing members of their society – whom have a passion for Eurovision and what it represents. Eurovision in Malmo this year celebrated the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans Gender support and backbone of the Eurovision Song Contest. They reminded us that “We Are One” and host Petra Mede brought this to the Global Media with her reference to the GLBT community. SVT even had a kissing same sex couple as part of the Interval Act.

The EBU had no problem with this or with Krista Siegfrids Bridesmaids kiss. This was a public acknowledgement that the Eurovision is for people of all races, religions and sexual orientations. A place where one can be free to be whom they want to be. There have been many openly homosexual contestants in the contest over the years. However we now have a growing political culture in parts of the continent that criminalize a person for their sexual preference. Yes I refer to the recent Russian Political reforms that have denied people their ability to be who they truly are.

The recent law reforms in Russia are concerning – especially if the contest should return to Russia – which is a strong possibility due to their successful placings each year. Could the EBU in good faith allow the contest to come from a country that has now marginalized hundreds of thousands of people? Let me be very clear – my words are not directed to the Russian population. Again I have met many Russian people through Eurovision and we remain strong friends today. My comments are directed towards the political environment in the country. It is ironic that Russia pass these laws considering that they gave us the sexually ambiguous t.A.T.u in 2003

We have to applaud Polish (2010) Eurovision Contestant Marcin Mrozinski for his recent stance on this exact issue. Marcin was due to compete in the International Song Contest taking place in “Pirogovsky Rassvet”. On his Facebook page he wrote

“For more than 50 days you were supporting me with your votes on the web site and I want to thank you for that. Unfortunately, I had to resign from going to Russia. I do it as a protest for the new law which was enforced some time ago in Russia. This law is restricting the right of freedom to sexual minorities. I think that it’s unacceptable that in the 21st century someone restricts freedom of others. I cannot imagine myself taking part in a festival in a country where it’s leaded any kind of segregation: because of religion, race or sexuality. We are free and it should be our law. Freedom should be a normality. We should not have to fight for it.

Maybe nobody will hear my protest, maybe no one will see my absence on a festival, but it would be a hypocrisy to sing about love and freedom and enjoying those five days in the country where the human rights are not respected.

I was inspired by Loreen. She is always talking with a language of freedom and love. She is not scared to talk about intolerance even she could lose her contracts and not being invited for some events. She is not scared about gossips. She is an Artist and that helps her to be heard by more people. She might help people to understand how dangerous is to be quiet and agree on reclaiming the freedom. Lots of Eurovision fans are gay and lesbian. As the Polish representative in Eurovision 2010 I cannot pass over case of freedom. I am sorry, but in this situation I cannot represent Poland on “Pirogovsky Rassvet” in Russia.”

It is the courage that Marcin has displayed that we here at Eurovision Ireland had to voice our thoughts and ask the EBU/Jon Ola Sand to embrace this opportunity to bring sustained acceptance to the Eurovision Song Contest and it’s loyal followers.


We cannot expect the EBU to dictate to a Government that they change their laws, but what they can do is to develop a charter that any country wishing to participate at Eurovision needs to follow on a consistent basis. Is this too much to ask from a state broadcaster? Not really as the EBU has graciously allowed these nations to participate and host Eurovision without questioning their laws in the past. However the EBU and Jon Ola Sand need to remember the founding principles of Eurovision – to promote “Acceptance and Understanding” across Europe. This is the EBU’s chance to stand up for that principle again today and give countries the opportunity grow and develop their own values of “We Are One”.

This is certainly not the time to avoid the issue but a time to embrace it and not be afraid to have these open discussions with broadcasters and more importantly fans of the Eurovision Song Contest.

The new Zebra Crossing outside the Russian Embassy in Stockholm. Photograph courtesy of Facebook

The new Zebra Crossing outside the Russian Embassy in Stockholm. Photograph courtesy of Facebook


So here is our offer to Jon Ola Sand and the team at the EBU and Eurovision.tv – “We suggest that you meet us here at Eurovision Ireland and the other pan European Fan Websites face to face, and let us tell you truly “What Eurovision means to us” and assist you to develop a “Eurovision Charter”. One that strives to ensure the founding principles of Eurovision are upheld and evolved to include the new aspects of our European society. It is not a time for conflict but a time of “acceptance”.

This open letter is not a criticism of the EBU but a call for action from the EBU to help strengthen the core values of “Europe’s Favorite TV Show – Eurovision”.

Jon Ola and Team – we would certainly welcome the opportunity to work with you on a solution to this growing issue. You can reach us at EurovisionIreland@live.ie

We think that it is very apt to show you the Lyric Video of Russia’s Eurovision Song this year – “What If”. Just look at the lyrics and you will see that “Together we can change the world forever”.

For all our Eurovision Ireland friends and readers, we ask if you could take a moment to think on how we can preserve the values of Eurovision and share this with all of your friends – no matter what their race, religion or sexual preference. It is through dialogue that this situation will not escalate. Remember “We Are One”. Tell us how this situation can be overcome?


Author/Website co-founder and Editor in Chief Garrett Mulhall

Source – Eurovision Ireland and Facebook


10 replies »

  1. Is there a (euro)vision within the EBU to actively support same right for everybody and fight discrimination?

    I mean it’s not only about people being gay, but also skin colour and even the country you were born as diaspora. Entering a darkskinned artists usually is ‘unwise’ if you aim for Europewide support for your act, which in my opinion is a shame.Black artists being bullied and voted off is a big shame, just as gay people not feeling welcome in nations with homophobic laws like Russia, Moldova and Lithuania.

    About the Petra Mede jokes and gay influences in the intervalact. I don’t mind if they are funny, I simply liked the fact that they were there in the open and people all around Europe were not ‘promoted’ but encountered in a friendly way the fact that there are people who like people (in the same sex way).

    I personally hated the Finnish entry and but I liked the fact every country had to broadcast the kiss in the end, and that this time it was allowed by the EBU while t.A.t.Y was kept out of sight. Did EBU check btw whether all participating broadcasters did broadcast the whole show? Or did some countries show a bunch of flowers in at the end of the Finnish song? In that case, that broadcaster should be disqualified.

    Same if Armenia / Azerbaijan did not show the neighbours entry during the final.

    We are one, what if not?

  2. 2 comments:

    1. the Russian anti-homo law only emphasize how hypocrite this year’s Russian song was.

    2. About the law-If I understand correctly the law doesn’t criminalize homosexuality. What it does criminalize is the “promotion of homosexual behaviour”. Under promotion of homosexual behaviour it define action like:same sex kiss,2 men(or women) holding hands in public, showing the rainbow flag, giving information about “unnatural”(=gay)sexual behaviour. Even a small scene in this year’s video, falls under that law.
    In short it shoves gay people into the closet.
    As a tourist you can get a fine and deportation out of the country and denying access for several years. Think about it when you go on your next vacation to Russia, or if this ever happen again, if Russia wins ESC and you consider spending 2 weeks of your life there.

    I don’t know if the EBU can do anything about it, or if they are willing to do anything about this. The chance is that they delay any decision until they have to(=when Russia and any country with such law, will win ESC and will have to host it). At the moment they put their head in the sand and will ignore the problem.

  3. Noticed that this reply…which I posted at Eurovision Debate (Facebook) is actually much better 🙂 (in my view…) so maybe better to post this one?? OK, here goes:

    As much as I agree with the statement that of course all sort of discrimination against gays – or discrimination in general that is – I feel it’s again a bit stereotyping the fans….As if we are all gays. But we are not 🙂

    OK, not a problem for me with gay people. I have many gay friends. But it seems like it’s another way of trying to preach ESC as some sort of “gay thing”. But I for my part, found e.g. the “jokes” of Petra Mede this year just silly. And rather non-inclusive for the many straight men / and women too who love ESC too! And I know many – also gays – who felt the same…It all just felt a bit flat really….as if Petra had not found the right script yet! 😉

    Well, the Russian song was another rather cliched “stand together” anthem…Which I thought was off putting just by it’s (lack of rather) musical merit anyway, but that’s another story! 🙂 The fact that they want EBU to “influence” Russia seems like a slightly naive (if brave) move. But a bit silly I think…it’s hardly something that have much to do with ESC anyway. EBU works with TV after all, not poltics. I’m all for gay liberation. Of course. 🙂 But I think the people who wrote this letter also should make it clear that also many STRAIGHT fans – AND women – love ESC too. They do the same mistake as some gay ESC-fans (maybe not on prurpose as such) do, trying to make ESC a “gay thing”. ESC doesn’t benefit from it either. Neither does the fan. The problem is that EBU sometimes seem to fall in the same trap….!

    Apart from that – I agree with the sentiments as such. It’s just the generalization I don’t like! The slogan says it – We are one. Yes we are. ESC-fans. Gay, straight, bi, asexual. men. Women. So why make divisions? 🙂

    • Hi Steinar

      Thank you for your response and the points that you have raised. As the author of the piece it is only fair that I reply to you.

      We agree with you 100% in the point that ESC is not a G/L/B/T event. Yes the majority of viewers are straight and thankfully over Europe it is a family event for all to enjoy and express their enjoyment of the contest. Enjoying the contest in whatever context that they want is a given for people in Western Europe. However that is becoming more difficult in other parts of Europe. Russian Legislation is just a single example – however it is something that should not be overlooked.

      ESC’s stance is that it is not a political vehicle – however they cannot escape that bond to some degree. One only has to look at the “lost Russian Votes” at this years contest that made it to parliament in Russia and Azerbaijan etc. When you offer a nation a very public platform to host a contest, then it leads it to being a PR exercise to some extent – remember tanks and fighter planes on stage in Moscow – granted inflatable. But if ESC offers a huge platform for self promotion then the ESC should have somewhat of a moral sensibility of whom they are entrusting in the contest.

      What if the 1998 ESC contest was played out next year in Russia? We could have been in a situation of a Eurovision Winner like Dana International not being allowed to perform?

      I think that sexual marginalization is one of the last remaining barriers to be broken down. It is a more complex issue as it is not as visible as say gender or race. LGBT do not own Eurovision but should be allowed to enjoy the contest with no fear of retribution. No?

      “We Are One” indeed and hopefully All can enjoy the contest. Apologies if you read the article as I was saying that ESC was for the LGBT community exclusively – not my sentiment at all. Just needed to highlight the disparity within some nations.

      Thanks for your comments – much appreciated

  4. I think the people who wrote this letter should make it calear that a lot of straight people also love ESC, and that it’s not all some sort of gay thing! The refences at ESC this year was just silly! It all dragged down my impression! And really…why should EBU intefere with what Russia does? They work with TV, not politcs! OK, I am of course for gay liberation and against discrimnination, but this is just silly…sorry. I have all respect for gays…but why focus even more of the gay / ESC link. As the slogan goes WE ARE ONE. Yes we are. ESC-fans. Straight and gays. Why make such divisions? Do ESC benefit from it? I think not

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