China’s relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t a long one, but it’s certainly an interesting one. If you know the lyrics “there are more than a million that speak Mandarin”, you already know where it all began.
In October 2013, music channel CCTV-15 broadcast the contest for the very first time in China.”
“We hope that this is the beginning of an annual tradition and that the Eurovision Song Contest will eventually also become China’s favourite TV-show. It creates an amazing opportunity for artists participating in the contest, expanding the enormous potential audience outside of Europe.” – Jon Ola Sand, Executive Producer of the Eurovision Song Contest
By 2014, China was making its mark on Eurovision, and the contest would be broadcast on delay to the country. To celebrate the millions of new viewers now able to watch, Denmark’s national broadcaster DR used the show’s interval to pay homage to its Chinese audience.
One year on, China first broadcast the event live on Hunan TV’s internet platform, Mango TV, with commentary from Kubert Leung and Wu Zhoutong. They continued to send a delegation and broadcast the content for four years. In 2016, it was reported that China even wanted to compete in the contest.
However, in 2018, the relationship turned sour. The European Broadcasting Union terminated Hunan TV’s rights to the contest following the censorship of performances during the first semi-final in Lisbon.”
“On the 9th of May, Chinese broadcaster Mango TV broadcast the first Semi-Final of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest live but two performances were censored. This is not in line with the EBU’s values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music. It is with regret that we will therefore immediately be terminating our partnership with the broadcaster and they will not be permitted to broadcast the second Semi-Final or the Grand Final”. – European Broadcasting Union Statement
During the semi-final, the performances of Albania, Ireland and Switzerland were not shown in full. Eugent Bushpepa, who was singing for Albania, and his performance of “Mall”, was skipped due to China’s ban on television performers displaying tattoos.
Ireland’s performance had also been censored due to its inclusion of LGBT content, which China has also banned. Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s performance of “Together” notably featured a romantic dance number with two men. Parts of Switzerland’s performance were also censored with blurred bars to cover rainbow flags in the audience.
During the announcement of the qualifiers, however, Albania and Ireland’s reactions were left unedited.
Hunan Television later spoke out about their online channel, Mango TV. In a statement to SBS News they stated “weren’t aware” of any changes made to Mango TV’s broadcast of the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Ahead of the 2019 contest, the Chairperson of the Reference Group, Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling spoke about Australia’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, commenting on the possibility of China following suit. For a number of years, there had been speculation as to whether the European Broadcasting Union would invite additional nations to the contest in the same way as Australia, however, Dr. Freiling challenged this view stating:”
“For many other countries like Korea or China this is not the case because they do not share the same values and understanding of culture. We want to stick to the core of these European values since this is the reason why the ESC exists: to overcome the frontiers and build bridges within Europe.” – Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling, Chairperson of the Reference Group
Australia entered the competition one year after featuring in one of the 2014 interval performances, just as China did, with Jessica Mauboy’s ‘Sea of Flags’.
It’s unlikely that China will participate in the Eurovision Song Contest any time soon, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take part in a Eurovision event, or even host one. China is one of ten countries to have shown interest in the Eurovision Asia Song Contest, a project launched by the European Broadcasting Union in partnership with Australia’s broadcaster SBS and Blink TV. The contest has been under development for over five years, with no news of its progress for almost two.
In March 2019, Paul Clarke, of Blink TV and Head of Delegation for Australia at Eurovision, confirmed that the Eurovision Asia Song Contest is still in the works. Mr. Clarke confirmed that there are a number of potential investors in Asia who are interested in the Eurovision Asia Song Contest, however, things haven’t progressed as quickly as hoped.
In the autumn of 2018, it was reported in the Australian press that the Gold Coast was in discussions regarding hosting the competition. The contest was provisionally scheduled for between November 30 to December 7, 2019. China has even been suggested as one of the Steering Group member nations.
The contest would be the first time that a Eurovision spin-off has been successfully held outside of Europe. Previously the European Broadcasting Union has sold the rights to the contest in Asia, the Arab World and an American contest is now also in development.