The Mystery of the Eurovision Press Center

Eurovision fan-sites not only get access to the artists in ways that mainstream media cannot, but also provide momentum towards promoting the contest as a whole. During the actual two weeks at Eurovision, they follow rehearsals as they occur, giving hints about what could shine on the night and the songs local charts could miss out on. Press conferences can give a better view of the artist beyond their role as their country’s representative. And even during the off-season, starting as soon as the winning reprise ends, larger fan-sites keep interest in the contest throughout, ranging from reviews of the artists’ new songs to the annual ESC250 poll at the end of the year.

With the amount of content voluntarily generated by these fan sites, things started to stink when reports of multiple press members getting rejected for any press accreditation a week after the submission deadline. For some of the larger websites, they were allowed to have one representative, significantly spreading themselves thin in terms of future content. Ultimately, 140 fan-credited press outlets were accredited, though the EBU noted how the number of applications for Turin 2022 increased by 400% from last year.

Admittedly, there needed to be changes in how the press center worked, especially in terms of fan media, who received the most access. Reports of unprofessionalism, such as reporters “not working, coming in late and leaving early…”, along with a few who only came to meet their favorite artists. In addition, compared to previous years, the press window is only open from the second rehearsals onwards, at the delegations’ requests. During the first rehearsals, when the artists were just getting acclimated to the stage, a single bad report is enough to send momentum spiraling. Those concerns are valid and should be addressed in deciding to get the golden ticket.

That said, stripping a significant amount of press accreditations to the fan community is a harsh response to solve the press question.

While Eurovision is a highly recognizable brand across Europe (in a 2020 survey featuring twelve European countries and Australia, 94% of adults have heard of the contest before, while 63% of them have watched at least one edition), it’s still frequently misunderstood by the general public. Acknowledged as a cultural juggernaut by most, the focus is on the more eccentric and camp performances, a relic from the 100% televote era of the 2000s. Politics also features in the coverage—from how the voting works to the persistent belief that the United Kingdom would
never win again due to politics
. Despite it being a prominent part of the contest, it’s used as a pejorative, to suggest that the voting isn’t purely based on music.

Fan community sites work to correct the image—by going in-depth into the performances and the artists, they dispel the idea of a “trashy” contest and focus more on a celebration of music.

Here we list several possible ways to solve this problem:

  • Demographic information – while the Online Press Center strove to open the field to people who weren’t able to make the trip to the contest, the majority of fan sites are still predominantly white and male-led. To start out, having a voluntary survey of those who are accredited to the press, which can be shared amongst the rest of the delegations. Afterwards, the information can be used to determine where to diversify. This can also help the EBU towards goals of transparency and accountability, not only within that organization but also with the loyal and dedicated fans of the Contest.
  • A standardized & transparent application process – the notoriously opaque way the EBU decides who gets to join provided the most irritation amongst the fandom. In a since-deleted open letter, ESCPulse lamented on how in rejecting fan community sites, the broadcaster decided to prioritize local influencers and media companies who would be at the event for either only one night or merely during the week of the live shows, rather than those smaller websites with a more niche focus and that provide content year-round. This doesn’t mean everybody who wants to get accreditation will get it, though–there has to be standards on what content is expected when one is in the press room, as well as that with professional behavior when one is there. Through these steps, the EBU could assure that they not only judge every application consistently, but also that the journalists chosen would showcase Eurovision in the best light possible.
  • Expanded virtual press center – as we mentioned in our first point, the Online Press Center was meant to provide (because of the current pandemic) not only additional capacities for outlets to inform and create content, but also, more diverse coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest during the weeks leading to and during the week of the event. And while the priorities of the EBU seem to be leading into generating more original digital content themselves, without the fan-sites, how do they expect to reach their dedicated audience? Because relaying this outreach to just the Contest’s official platforms and each broadcaster’s dedicated Eurovision (if they have it) will not be enough. We (the fan-sites) need a larger presence covering the event, not only because we love it and many of us are superfans, but also, because fan-created and fan-targeted content has been a struggle for the EBU itself in recent years.

Published by Elda Mengisto

Frequent writer, aspiring scholar, occasional fencer. I'm a lover of all things beautiful and light.

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