ESC 2020: no preliminary decision? What speaks for and what speaks against

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Ten years after Lena Meyer-Landrut’s success in Oslo, the Eurovision Song Contest in Germany is again in crisis. In the past few years, Germany has taken last place twice (in 2015 with Ann Sophie and “Black Smoke”, in 2016 with Jamie-Lee and “Ghost”). Most recently, the duo S! Sters with “Sister” in Tel Aviv finished 25th with the 25th place. Apart from the success of Michael Schulte in Lisbon (4th place) a disastrous record of the responsible broadcaster NDR. Several attempts to change the preliminary decision and thus make it a model for success have failed. But how should it go on?

ESC preliminary decision very unlikely

Apparently there are considerations to forego a preliminary decision this year and to nominate the candidate for the ESC in Rotterdam directly. The Grand Prix blog initially assumed that this was the case “ESC compact” hired. As there is no program planning for a live show at ARD for February, but the participant must be registered by March 9, a preliminary decision seems very unlikely. The NDR itself is covered, does not want to provide details about the ESC 2020 until the end of January.

A direct nomination would be the logical alternative to the preliminary decision. Other countries have waived audience participation for years and are achieving good results. Most recently Switzerland, where in 2019 both the participant Luca Hänni (former “DSDS” winner) and his song “She got me” were selected internally. Hänni took fourth place in Tel Aviv – the best result for Switzerland since 1993. But the internal selection also has its pitfalls. In 2016, the NDR had already made the contract with Xavier Naidoo perfect, but then had to withdraw the candidate because of a public outcry.

The advantages of an internal ESC selection:

  • No risk for big names
    Santiano, Unheilig, La Brass Banda: The list of participants who failed in the German pre-selection can be continued as desired. Should the NDR be in negotiations with a well-known artist, it would be easier to win him over without a preliminary decision.
  • Concerted action
    Record companies, songwriters, performers and the broadcaster could sit down at a table and plan together behind the scenes and join forces. The goal: to find a terrific song / artist instead of several mediocre ones, who then go into the preliminary decision.
  • No excuses
    If the participant in Rotterdam fails again, it is clear who the culprits are. There is no need to pass on a supposedly wrong choice of viewers.

The disadvantages of an internal ESC selection:

  • No live test
    Voting is the best indicator of the prospect of an artist or song being successful – especially in a live show. Does the song and the artist arrive? This instrument does not apply to direct nominations.
  • Lack of enthusiasm
    Many still remember the hype that arose when Lena Meyer-Landrut competed in the German preliminary round in 2010. A wave of success carried her to victory in Oslo. With a direct nomination, this enthusiasm will probably be more difficult to generate – especially with unknown names.
  • Undemocratic
    An internal selection runs the risk of being labeled as undemocratic. The viewer is not legitimized.

How could things go instead of the 2020 ESC preliminary decision?

The NDR will presumably be using a hybrid model this year: an internal selection without a preliminary decision, in which not only the station bosses, but for example an international jury or the Eurovision panel that has already been tried and tested in previous years, are involved. So a model similar to 2019 in Switzerland. Either way: It can’t get any worse than 2019 in Tel Aviv.

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