In the evening on February 27, the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), an official Eurovision broadcaster in our country, finally admitted that it would be hard to put up a front in this situation. Four days after the victory of the singer Maruv in the national selection and after a week of uproar in social networks, it was decided not to participate in Eurovision Song Contest 2019, which will be held in Israeli Tel Aviv in mid-May. We recreated the chronology of the scandal and tried to understand its causes and offer some solution.
It was obvious that the national selection for Eurovision 2019 would bring about the drama since the favorite Tayanna withdrew her application. And she did it at the very last moment - on the very day of the semi-finals draw. It is unlikely that her radical decision was due to a fleeting emotion. Then Maruv who wasn’t going to compete initially was appointed instead of her and there was a certain resonance connected to her spring concerts in Russia. Earlier SunSay and Sergey Babkin were accused of the same thing, but the matter didn’t go further than quite tolerable reproaches. Then, in the first semi-final, the host Serhiy Prytula chided Yulia Yurina of Yuko band over her Russian citizenship. But the real chain reaction of raising negative started after the interview of Roman Skrypin with the duet Anna Maria broadcasted on air of ATR TV channel on February 21. The journalist, in his tough manner forced the Simferopol-born singers Anna and Maria Opanasyuk to answer the questions like “Whose Crimea is?,” “Do we have a war with Russia,” and made the singers make excuses for their parents who are working for the occupation authorities.
And now it became clear at this point how poorly everyone involved in the national selection at all levels of the process were prepared for it. The UA:PBC at the stage of selection of artists did not even think about the resonance that the Russia ties of contestants might cause and did not do a background check. The issue is quite painful, socially important and regularly raised. The STB TV channel appointed Serhiy Prytula, who is known both for his not always harmless jokes, and for his manner to ask uncomfortable questions bluntly, as the host. Even before the first semifinal, some Eurovision fans in social networks gladly anticipated a cold shower, which he would give to the participants. The musicians themselves, knowing how harsh the reaction of public to their ties with Russia might be, did not bother to prepare any intelligible answers to such questions. The Bahroma frontman Roman Bakharev who in the first semifinal got off with the most unconvincing general phrase that “love, like music, has no boundaries,” looked particularly insecure.
In the end, all of this spoiled the impression from the show. It did greatly increased its ratings though. Especially it is true for the final, two days before which that hapless interview of the Anna Maria duet took place. By the way, neither the girls themselves nor their PR staff seemed to have spent some five minutes to find out what channel they were invited to and what the journalist with whom they will be talking to is famous for. It was their fatal mistake which turned into a disastrous situation.
So, by the start of finals the audience was already thirsting for blood. The media looked through the information about all the participants and failed to find any compromising material only about one group of the six - Brunettes Shoot Blondes. As a result, the show turned into a parade of ugly public reprimands, which were later savored by Russian propaganda media, and attracted the attention of politicians who on the eve of the elections would gladly use any resonance. This is exactly what Vice Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko did, who, despite the Eurovision ban to involve politicians to the contest in any way, declared that the state would not send a performer touring to Russia to Tel Aviv.
Then there were negotiations with the winner of the national selection Maruv, who was ready to cancel her concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg for participation in Eurovision and take upon herself all expenses for the trip, since STB TV channel, as it turned out, canceled the sponsorship of the participant. The talks failed and, as a result, the dates of concerts in Russia remained in her tour schedule. The bands Freedom Jazz and Kazka refused from UA:PBC proposal to save the day. Brunettes Shoot Blondes preventively rejected possible offer too. It was followed by the brave statement of Andriy Danylko about his readiness to save the image of the country and once again be an adored by Eurovision fans Verka Serdyuchka. And, in the end, the scandalous decision of broadcaster not to send anyone to Eurovision at all was made.
If you think that the world didn’t care about our internal disputes and nobody noticed the scandal at the national selection, just click this link. You do not need to know English to understand that all these world news agencies wrote about the national selection. Even the American Billboard, The New York Times and The Washington Post were there, though the United States are not particularly interested in Eurovision, they are not going to take part in it, and started to broadcast the song contest quite recently - in 2016.
It is hard to say what can now be done with this mess. The most obvious answer is to refuse to participate in Eurovision until the end of Russian aggression. So far, UA:PBC has a year to think about, maybe even two. Bookmakers are now definitely betting on Russians Sergey Lazarev to win in Tel Aviv, which would automatically extend skip of Ukraine in Eurovision 2020 too. During this time, it is possible to think through all the nuances, develop a more or less secure plan for national selection, and also understand that life goes on without Eurovision.
Not to mention the idea of creating an internal replacement for the competition such as an annual TV show for young artists and their own creativity, which the national selection was. In the end, we once had very popular festivals among the youth and prestigious festivals like Chervona Ruta and Tavriysʹki Ihry among musicians. And it was, by the way, even before the era of Eurovision.