(Here for all my Eurovision posts)
I've put together a chart that shows the first year entered for each participant nation in the Eurovision Song Contest (the red line). Next to that, I've shown the member status for the European Union or it's predecessor organization (the blue line). Green squares indicate years that the country won the Eurovision Song Contest.
There's a lot to pull out of this, and I'll be looking at it over the next few days. Some information that I *haven't* yet put together would be the years when a country who had previously entered chose not to participate. For example, I just read that Armenia is pulling out of the contest this year, probably as a result of a flare up in tensions. I note that the publication date of that piece is May 31, 2011, just two weeks after Azerbaijan won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time.
Participants in the Eurovsion Song Contest come from active members of the European Broadcast Union. In order to compete, they must have broadcast the show in the previous year, and come up with some entry fee. The European Broadcast Union is based on a region that extends in to North Africa, the middle East and Western Russia - a broadcasting region that is defined by longitude and lattitude rather than current political boundaries. Not every active nation in the EBU has entered Eurovision, but each (and only those) could.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a United Nations specialized agency responsible for assigning global radio spectrum (not sure what is the relationship between the American FCC and the ITU, an interesting tangent perhaps). The ITU defines the region of the EBU as:
The western boundary of Region 1 is defined by a line running from the North Pole along meridian 10° West of Greenwich to its intersection with parallel 72° North; thence by great circle arc to the intersection of meridian 50° West and parallel 40° North; thence by great circle arc to the intersection of meridian 20° West and parallel 10° South; thence along meridian 20° West to the South Pole.
The EBU is not affiliated with the European Union. The European Union is the descendant of the European Economic Community (EEC) formed in 1958 (multiple modifications in form, name and membership). The chart shows that each of the founding members of the EEC were also part of the first Eurovision Song Contest.
I should actually reverse that, because one pattern that emerges clearly here is that membership in the Eurovision Song Contest is a strong indicator of eventual membership in the European political union.
There would have been significant technical challenges to overcome in any live broadcast across a region with varied capabilities, standards and approaches. The EBU continues to provide guidance and regulation on technical matters, including for example EBU R128, published recently and which defines 'Loudness' for European broadcasts. No word yet on what they consider 'Noise'.
In 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest began with entries from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland. Joined the next year by Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom. It's hard to imagine the political vision (audacity) required to bring together nations who still rationed food, still laboured to rebuild town halls and cathedrals. But there you have it....when I hear people now describe Eurovision as <fill in your own dismissive term>, I have to wonder what they're looking at. This is a model for supranational cooperation even before it is a cultural event. It's the best we've ever done.