The Eurovision glitter ball is tarnished after this year’s Grand Prix in Azerbaijan.
There are big questions being asked.
Questions which go way beyond the endless debates about language and live orchestras.
They are questions about the fundamentals of an event created to heal the wounds of World War Two and which managed to cope with the often violent re-drawing of the map of Europe in the 80s & 90s.
Put simply, there’s something of a stench surrounding the Baku event & it’s making even the most uncritical of Eurovision fans question the nature of the event.
The overtly bloc voting & the farcical interval act featuring the Azeri President’s son-in-law are the least of the problems facing the event.
The Baku government says Azeri agents foiled plots by Islamic extremists to kill foreigners at the ESC and assassinate President Ilham Aliyev.
In an e-mailed statement Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry Azeri said law-enforcement officials killed two members of the armed group, including its leader, and arrested 40 more.
Watch this space for more on this story.
Meanwhile the contest almost found itself in the middle of a diplomatic incident.
Norwegian national broadcaster NRK considered pulling out of the 2012 ESC when a team of its journalists was harassed by Azeri authorities as they were about to leave the country.
The Norwegians’ crime was to ask questions about human rights issues in Azerbaijan, albeit for a comedy show.
And the Baku bash has prompted a clamour from the United Kingdom, Austria & the Nordic countries for a tightening of the membership guidelines of the European Broadcasting Union.
The demands are simple enough.
If you come from a country that doesn’t respect democratic and humans rights you can’t be a member of the organisation and, therefore, you can’t get to sing your song every May.
And that puts Belarus and this year’s cheerful host Azerbaijan in the frame.
The standard of the telecast & a popular winner couldn’t disguise that Eurovision is in strife.
Sweden’s win means the ESC will return of the ESC to one of its bastions in 2013.
And that offers a chance of redemption.
These are interesting and difficult times.
The Grand Prix survived kowtowing to Franco’s Spain in 1969, it can rise above the current difficulties.
Good will and some honesty would help.