Friday, 30 May 2008

Wogan for a smaller Europe?

Russia’s delight at adding a Eurovision winner to April’s sporting triumphs in football and ice hockey was not shared by Terry Wogan. Indeed the presenter, whose sardonic commentary exemplifies the Eurovision contest for those watching on the BBC, has threatened to quit before next year’s final, in protest at what he considers the ‘geo-political’ factors which determine voting.

Now I must confess that, if I watch Eurovision at all, my habit is to tune in only after the music has finished and the voting has commenced. Perhaps it is the ‘geo-political’ influences which colour the votes from various countries which I actually enjoy. Mark Mardell offers the theory that large minorities from neighbouring countries may explain why the voting often seems to be determined by physical proximity. I have no doubt that there is some truth to this suggestion.

Equally, even where there are not substantial minorities living in adjacent countries, and where there is little historical affinity, or indeed outright antipathy, between neighbours, often votes still accrue to each other. I would suggest that the reasons why this might be are quite simple. There are similarities of language and culture in various areas, whether they are Scandinavia, the Baltics, the Balkans or wherever, which (get this Terry) actually incline people to appreciate similar music.

When Wogan bemoans the standard of the eastern European entries, or those from elsewhere and claims the competition is being transformed into a farce, he is actually simply reflecting an opinion that the music which is prevailing is crap and that the British entry is better! There’s nothing terribly sinister in the fact that many eastern Europeans disagree. What Wogan is effectively objecting to is the fact that more countries with cultural sensibilities which he doesn’t understand are competing.

The horizons of Eurovision have expanded and Terry’s just not comfortable with that. He needs to lighten up.

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