Eurovision Heads to the Middle East and North Africa
The European Broadcasting Union first mentioned discussions about a Eurovision Song Contest for the Middle East and North Africa in early 2007. At the time it was stated;
The ESC format option with an Arabian company to make an Arabian ESC version is prolonged
The sale of the format of the Eurovision Song Contest for the Middle East and North Africa was announced in January 2008 by the European Broadcasting Union. The format was sold to Nibras Media Ltd a Middle Eastern based media group, they would be working alongside the Tanweer Group. The contest was to be based broadly around the successful format of the Eurovision Song Contest but would take it to an Arab audience.
The following twenty-two countries would have been eligible to participate in the contest:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
What Happened to the Contest?
In 2009 in an interview with Reuters Bjoern Erichsen, director of the EBU’s TV unit discussed the sale of the Eurovision format for the Middle East and North Africa. Mr Erichsen confirmed that the production company had paid the licence fee for the contest and that between eight and nine countries would take part in the first contest.
Arab nations in Eurovision
Three Arab nations have attempted to or have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest since its inception in 1956, however none currently compete. These countries are:
- Lebanon – Were due to participate in the 2005 contest in Kyiv however withdrew after failing to ensure that they would broadcast the Israeli performance. Lebanon had selected Aline Lahoud with the song “Quand tout s’enfuit” to compete. Lebanon was banned for three years from the contest, they have not shown an interest in competing since.
- Morocco – Participated once in the contest in 1980, they were represented by Samira Said with the song “Bitaqat Hub”, they finished 18th out of 19 scoring just seven points. Morocco has not participated in the contest since, SNRT has shown no interest in participating in the contest.
- Tunisia – Tunisia were due to participate in the 1977 contest in London and were drawn to perform fourth however withdrew from the contest. The reason for the Tunisian withdrawal was not established, they have also stated no interest in participating in the contest recently.