Editorial: Why Australia must keep their Eurovision national final

The inaugural Australian Eurovision national final took place in the Gold Coast in February earlier this year. Kate Miller-Heidke was ultimately selected to represent Australia at Eurovision 2019, winning the jury and public over with her song ‘Zero Gravity’. She finished 9th at the Eurovision Grand Final in Tel Aviv, returning Australia back to the Top 10 after they missed out in 2018. Joshua Mayne takes a look at why the Australian delegation should continue with the national final selection format for the foreseeable future.

 

Ratings success

For co-producers SBS and Blink TV, Australia Decides was a relative ratings success. The program reached a viewing audience of 377,000 across metro and regional Australia, with an 8.5% share of programmes at that time. These were SBS’ best ratings since the FIFA World Cup in 2018, which is extremely promising for the broadcaster. Therefore, it makes sense from a ratings perspective for Australia Decides to be aired again in 2020.

The figures highlight that there is a market for this form of artist selection in Australia, even if it is unfamiliar to most. It can be argued that if Australia’s national final continues, audiences would continue to grow, embracing a new way of approaching competing at Eurovision. It also cannot be ignored that the show would have also been viewed by international viewers, with the broadcast available via live stream on Twitter and Facebook. Continuing Australia Decides would continue to strengthen Australia’s relationship with the global Eurovision community.

Keeping Eurovision relevant in Australia

In Australia’s first three years of competition at Eurovision, they obtained a top ten finish every time, claiming second position in 2016 with Dami Im. However, by 2018, it seemed that this ‘honeymoon period’ was over, with Jessica Mauboy finishing in 20th on 99 points. One cannot deny that internal selection worked incredibly well to begin with, but there was potential for the Australian delegation to improve the system. And they did just that, ambitiously creating a national final to be held in the Gold Coast in 2019.

The novelty of Australia participating in Eurovision was wearing off, and establishing a national final selection process was a positive step from SBS and Blink TV. Now they had the ability to engage the Australian public with more than just the contest in May, by providing fans with the ability to help select the artist through televoting. This encourages audiences to be more involved, as they follow the artist’s journey from February until the big event in May. Interest around Kate Miller-Heidke significantly increased, as Australians (and international fans) learnt more about her impressive career. A national final is the perfect way to build anticipation around Australia’s entry, enabling viewers to interact like they have not been able to before.

Entertainment value

As for the show itself, it was undoubtedly an entertaining and high quality spectacle. Approximately 5000 fans filled out the Gold Coast’s Convention Centre, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Eurovision itself, whilst maintaining an Australian feel. Throughout the night there was diversity in genre, language, ethnicity, experience and age – exactly what Eurovision is about. It also managed to avoid falling into the label of a ‘reality singing show’ like The Voice. Australia Decides was uniquely an SBS/Blink TV production. For an inaugural contest, it was highly enjoyable and smooth, traits that will only improve over time.

 

Potential for growth

The future of Australia Decides is exciting, with a serious potential to grow and stand independently amongst all the other significant national finals in Europe. Ten contestants was a great size to begin with, offering variety whilst not overwhelming and confusing the audience. If Australia Decides were to continue in the future, it would still be ideal to stay with ten artists. This would offer short-term stability, with the option to expand in the future.

For the long-term, modelling the contest off Sweden’s popular Melodifestivalen would be bold but achievable. Two semi finals prior to a Grand Final is the next logical step, but the contest still needs time to settle first. Regardless, Australia Decides is a really exciting project for SBS and Blink TV, and based off the delegation’s history, it is likely they will be ambitious with it in the future.

Showcasing Australian music

Amongst the ten acts, Australia Decides featured established artists (both current and former) and emerging artists. Most notable was Leea Nanos, a virtually unknown 16-year-old who impressed the producers with her song ‘Set Me Free’. She was granted a spot amongst other popular artists on an Australian stage. This exposure would be invaluable for any young aspiring artist, and Australia Decides is the perfect platform to offer that.

 

Balance and variety of artists was key to the show’s success. Well-known artists like Sheppard, Kate Miller-Heidke, Tania Doko and Ella Hooper provided incentive for many viewers to tune into the program in the first place. By continuing Australia Decides, it would spark development of the Australian music industry. A national final has the ability to showcase the diversity and quality of Australian music, offering viewers a smorgasbord of talent.

In summary…

It is evident that placing 9th was not the only benefit that came from the inaugural Australia Decides. For most Australians this is a unique method to select an artist for the Eurovision Song Contest, but it is the future. It was a spectacle that highlighted the diversity of modern Australian music, and increased the relevance of Eurovision within the country. If SBS and Blink TV were to keep Australia Decides as an annual fixture in the Eurovision calendar, it would be a very positive move. Australia has the potential to be a true Eurovision powerhouse, and by expanding and continuing a national final, this is could become a reality.

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