Australia: First thoughts on a national final

Paul Clarke, Australia’s Head of Delegation, exclusively informed ESC Daily in May that Australia is planning a national final (assuming they remain in Eurovision). Although nothing is set in stone, a national final is certainly a viable option for the 2018 Australian Eurovision selection process. Joshua Mayne takes a look at how a national final could work in Australia.

Broadcaster

Obviously all Eurovision related content comes first through SBS, the network that has broadcasted the contest in Australia since 1983. If SBS were to broadcast a national final, it is likely that they would partner with Blink TV, the same production company that assists with their Eurovision Song Contest broadcast.

Other potential partners like Channel 7 and Channel 9 may have a larger budget, however SBS have a rich history associated with Europe and Eurovision, understanding Eurovision and its importance more than most other networks. Shows such as Rockwiz and this year’s “Eurovision Top 40 Songs” prove that SBS have the capacity to create their own professional live music program.

If a national final show in Australia is to be a success, this could ultimately lead to a bigger and more expensive production. In such a scenario, more partners could come into play. However, a relatively small production is the ideal place to start, with plenty of room to grow.

Are the big names ready for a national final?

Once the idea for a national final was raised in May this year, there were immediate concerns about who would be willing to compete in such an event. These concerns have some weight behind them. A national final would be something new, unique and relatively unknown in the Australian music and television landscape. This could possibly result in artists hesitating to enter.

However, Australia is a naturally competitive nation that thrives on any opportunity where there is a potential to win. After three straight top ten finishes, it’s clear to see that they are also pretty good at it.

Isaiah Firebrace told ESC Daily in Kiev that he personally would consider competing. He also believes that many other artists would want to take part. He later said that “it would be really cool to see people coming together to celebrate music and for the opportunity to come to Eurovision”.

Record label

Currently, Sony Music partner with SBS and Blink TV to produce and broadcast Eurovision in Australia, which has influenced all of Australia’s past internal selections. Guy Sebastian, Dami Im and Isaiah Firebrace are all signed on a record label with Sony Music Australia. If a national final is to occur, which label records can send entrants? To ensure an inclusive competition, it would be ideal for entries to be open to all record labels.

Dami Im and Isaiah Firebrace Eurovision AustraliaAnother feasible option would be to reward the winner of a singing show like the X-Factor Australia with a direct ticket to the upcoming national final. This would create a prestige around the national final, and ensure that at least one relevant artist would take part.

X-Factor Australia – a show that brought us Dami Im and Isaiah Firebrace – will no longer be on tv in the foreseeable future. However other reality singing programs including The Voice Australia (which brought forward Anja Nissen) are options. Once again, record label clashes could be a problem. But this is a bridge for the official organisers to cross if (or when) they reach it.

Format

In terms of selecting the actual contestants, an auditioning process is most logical. Artists could submit their song online, with the host broadcaster ultimately selecting the finalists to compete in the final. This method is simple and is used by many successful national final organisers, including Melodifestivalen. It would ensure that artists of all types have the opportunity to compete.

Voting at the actual final will also have to be a major consideration. Should it be only jury votes, only public votes, or a mixture of both? A mixture would be the safest option. It ensures that professional opinion is weighted evenly with what the nation actually wants. It also reflects the nature of the Eurovision Song Contest which is currently decided by a mixture of jury and televote.

BBC Eurovision logo You DecideSimple TV-show

Modelling the first Australian national final on the United Kingdom’s “You Decide” format would be a great place to start. Six artists, six songs, and a fairly condensed program is very achievable. It is also ideal for an audience unfamiliar with national finals.

Although Australian Eurovision viewership statistics are very positive, Australia has only been competing for the past three contests, with contestants chosen via an internal selection process. This is now the norm; therefore a lot of viewers are unaware of how common national finals are in Europe. A national final is a great way to increase the anticipation and excitement around Eurovision. Unless you’re a passionate fan, Eurovision is not on the agenda prior to May.

If Australia is to hold a national final, it needs to be as simple a format as possible. This way, the new Australian audience can grasp the concept, and begin to learn more about how Eurovision (often) operates in Europe. It will only do favours for the contest in Australia, increasing exposure and popularity.

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