When the final votes are being counted in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) final in Oslo on the 29th of May, Norwegians will be watching nervously. Some will surely close their eyes or look away. Some might even start to pray. We’re desperate, see. We really don’t want to win again.
Norwegian broadcaster NRK decided in 2006 to copy the Swedish model for the national ESC-contest. The contest is now played out over several rounds, with smaller shows in cities across the country before a final in the capital. This has made the contest vastly more popular then it used to be – also among musicians. At the same time NRKs main Grand Prix-host, Per Sundnes, has been doing some serious networking. He has convinced artists that normally wouldn’t consider the ESC, to give it a try. This year, even one of Norway’s infamous black metal bands competed, giving definite proof that the Norwegian musical landscape has been changed almost to the unrecognisable (though I guess one could argue that the ESC is hell on earth, and therefore a perfect place for black metal).
When the fiddler Alexander Rybak won the international final last year, it seemed like the perfect ending to the Norwegian ESC-fairytale. But the problem was of course that it wasn’t an ending.
As soon as Rybak was declared winner on the 16th of May last year, Hans-Tore Bjerkaas, the head of NRK, started to worry about having to host the next final. How to pay for something like this? The solutions he has come up with have been highly unpopular.
Several planned TV-productions have been put on hold. Other shows and productions will be cut for periods of time. And, most dramatically, NRK decided to sell their rights to broadcast this summer’s World Cup in football, a move so unpopular that the Norwegian minister of culture seemed to long for a time where politicians could dictate what should be on TV.
Knut Olav Åmås, culture editor in the newspaper Aftenposten, has written that the cost, estimated to be around 25 million Euro, is too high for what he defines as “a medium important international song contest with partly scandalously bad music and a string of weak performers”. According to a recent survey, more than 40 % of Norwegians agree that the cost is too high.
Luckily, our chances of winning again are slim. “My Heart is Yours”, sung by Didrik Solli-Tangen, appears too pompous even for ESC. It has been speculated, only half jokingly, that NRK rigged the national contest’s voting system to ensure that our entry this year would be something guaranteed not to win.
Norway has a unique ESC-record – we’re the only country to have gotten 0 points in four different finals. We wouldn’t be devastated if it happened again.