Well, the question was raised during the past Eurovision Song Contest and the answer seemed to be that such thing is not going to happen in the near future, and it is not expected to happen in the way that it has been speculated lately.
Sure, we Eurofans tend to get carried away when news about potential freshmen in the Eurovision Song Contest circulate. Considering that practically the whole the map of Europe (and beyond) has already been covered by the Contest any expansion is to include countries that no one might have expected a few years back…
The latest case is Kazakhstan. The country’s broadcaster Khabar Agency became an associate member of EBU on 1 January 2016. This does not make the country eligible to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, as only full members are, with the exception of Australia, though the country is to be invited by the Contest’s host broadcaster.
In a recent statement to ESCToday.com EBU indicated that the rules for participation will be reviewed for nest year’s competition. This might open the door to regular participation for countries which do not have full EBU-members broadcasters. Such is the case of Kazakhstan. And that is the case of the United States, Brazil, Canada, China… And if the rules change, the doors will be opened for those countries too, and so it has been commented by the media.
Now, is this wave of speculation justified? Are we close to seeing China, the US or other countries participating regularly…? I do not know, but I think that it is unlikely.
Yes, we have had the case of Australia. Far, far away from Europe and yet participating. But as Jon Ola Sand explained in Stockholm, that is an exception that is justified by the 30-year-old Eurovision tradition in Australia, where the Contest has a strong fan base and it has secured an faithful audience over the years. Australia did have what was needed to make it a participant. Australia can invest in the effort of participating while expecting profit for SBS and for Eurovision. Australia may not be in Europe, but it is a country of European heritage that looks up to Europe and wishes to get closer to it. Australia can give a lot to the Eurovision Song Contest because it likes the Eurovision Song Contest and wants to make it richer by participating in it. And there goes one example: Dami Im nailed it on stage and earned the audience’s ovation and respect in Sweden.
Kazakhstan: well, that is another story and maybe both, EBU and Khabar Agency would be taking a big risk if Kazakhstan eventually participated. Nevertheless, the Contest has been broadcast in the country since 2010, and if a participation is being sought then probably the broadcaster sees a potential for a broad audience. Furthermore, if this is happening now, the project has probably been brewing for some time already and it just needs the final push.
Worldvision with the US, China…? That is difficult at present. For such a move you would need to have to Australia had been growing for 30 years. Maybe a shorter time is required this time, but currently there is not a strong fan-base in those countries and the Contest and its format is a bit of a stranger for the viewers. Let them discover it first and tell us how they like it. Maybe they will want to import it and put it in place in their regions. Actually, SBS is sponsoring (again) the creation of a similar song contest in the Asia-Pacific region. Their earlier attempt resulted in thinner versions without competition (ABU Song Festivals) which have not reached the status of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Jon Ola Sand also mentioned the possibility of exporting the format to the US having States competing among them. That would an idea, why not… Most importantly, he also mentioned that the Eurovision Song Contest is to remain the Contest as we know it, made form Europe and with the same atmosphere. A Worldvision could see the winners of similar Song Contests made in other world regions competing for a worldwide trophy, but that will require a lot of work that is still to be started.
Things are moving, that is clear, and it is impossible to predict the future. Based on what we know and what is being said, seeing those unlikely countries in the Eurovision Song Contest remains improbable, so their detractors can be at ease. At least for the moment, because I have not yet read any adamant statement that it will never happen. Impossible is nothing. Let’s keep an open mind.