Should we just pull out of Eurovision and use the cash to buy ourselves a massive trophy instead?

The people who think politics, money and winning are what's important about Eurovision are missing the point, says Paul Jones

Britain's Engelbert Humperdinck performs during the dress rehearsal of the Grand Final of the Eurovision 2012 song contest in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku on May 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO / VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO        (Photo credit should read VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/GettyImages)

We’re never going to win Eurovision, are we? The voting’s fixed. Everyone hates us. We should just give up, right?


Even Philip Schofield thinks so: “It’s time to pull out,” he said on Twitter, after the United Kingdom came second from bottom on Saturday. “‘Not even Robbie [Williams] could win it for us, it’s too political.” Not even Robbie Williams. In what kind of insane world can that be true? It’s a travesty.

Except, this isn’t the Oscars or the Olympics, is it? It’s a fun, camp Saturday night in, watching 26 ridiculous acts trying to inject Europop viruses directly into your brain, and enjoying some sarcastic commentary on the very fact that the whole thing is a bit biased.

Some viewers (such as those posting on the BBC’s Eurovision site) just can’t see the funny side. They actually feel “degraded” and “humiliated” by the process. They don’t need a UK Eurovision winner, they need a sense of perspective (or at least a sense of humour).

“No matter what song or who sings it we will not get anywhere,” says one. But that’s not entirely true.

This year’s United Kingdom entry was a woeful dirge (sung by Engelbert Humperdinck, a man perpetually suspended in that painful state between human and full werewolf). Even we didn’t rate it – it only reached number 76 in the UK charts – so it didn’t really deserve any points.

But just three years ago we came fifth – when a half-decent song penned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber was performed very nicely by Jade Ewen (now a Sugarbabe) – and seven years before that we came third. OK, maybe we haven’t won for a while but then we haven’t lifted the World Cup since 1966 – shall we pull out of that?

Money’s also a big issue. As numerous commentators (posting on, for instance, the Daily Mail’s website) have pointed out, Britain is one of the participants that contributes the most cash to Eurovision, but we get nothing back in return. Again, not strictly true.

The European Broadcasting Union, which overseas Eurovision, admits “Smaller broadcasters tend to have a lower participation fee and the biggest ones a higher one.” That means Germany, Spain, UK, France and Italy pay the most.

But what kind of money are we talking here? Well, two years ago the broadcast rights cost the BBC less than £300,000 and, even with production costs on top of that, the EBU are at pains to point out that the Eurovision Song Contest is “one of the most cost-effective TV programmes for most of the broadcasters”.

So (as well as ensuring we automatically qualify for the final of Eurovision) the money the BBC spends gets them a big audience at a competitive price. Compared with what? Well, Saturday’s show was watched by 7.5 million people, on the same day that The Voice UK drew just 4.5 million (and you can pretty much guarantee that the people who watched Eurovision had more fun than those who watched The Voice).

But that’s not a good enough return for some licence fee payers. If we’re never going to win Eurovision, we should stop funding it, they say. Really? Putting in money entitles us to win? Well we’ve invested £10 billion into staging this year’s Olympics, so presumably we should be guaranteed a certain number of gold medals? I reckon a hundred at least.

Perhaps the simplest thing to do would have been to take the cash we usually spend on Eurovision and just buy ourselves a massive trophy. Then, while the rest of Europe was gathering to drink Asti Spumanti, eat cocktail sausages, wave flags and enjoy the show, we could have been watching coverage of our trophy rotating on a plinth, sparkling in the light of a disco ball while a flabby Wolverine wailed about looking deep into his soul.


But then we’d have missed Jedward’s brilliant, unexpected love-heart hand-move, and Swedish winner Loreen’s amazing crab dance. And we wouldn’t have witnessed Ukraine’s stonking trance entry – the winner in my book – get just 65 points compared with Loreen’s 372. Actually, that was the biggest travesty of all. If I was Ukraine I’d pull out of Eurovision.