Zelensky blocked from giving Eurovision speech
Ukraine’s President Zelensky blocked from giving Eurovision speech after other broadcasters said it would be ‘too political’ as he tells BBC contest should have been held closer to Ukraine
- The European Broadcasting Union’s decision was criticised as ‘not acceptable’
- The Union said that they were still showing support by featuring Ukrainian artists
President Zelensky was blocked from addressing the world at Eurovision after the BBC and other broadcasters decided it would be too ‘political’.
Organisers rejected a request from the Ukrainian president to make a surprise video appearance to urge the 160 million-strong audience to continue their support in the face of Russian aggression, according to The Times.
The European Broadcasting Union – an alliance of more than 100 broadcasters – turned down the President out of concerns his appearance would risk politicising the event.
A spokesperson for the Union said: ‘The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation.
‘As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event.’
President Zelensky was blocked from addressing the world at Eurovision after the BBC and other broadcasters decided it would be too ‘political’
‘This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest.
‘The request by Mr Zelensky to address the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest, whilst made with laudable intentions, regrettably cannot be granted as it would be against the rules of the event.’
BBC insiders told the Times ‘tricky and delicate’ negotiations were still taking place as they were wary it would set a precedent for more problematic leaders in the future.
But the decision was criticised as ‘not acceptable’ last night.
Baroness Stowell, chairwoman of the Lords communications and digital select committee and a former BBC policy chief told The Times: ‘It’s the wrong decision to deny him the opportunity to give a message on the basis that they don’t support political statements.’
Meanwhile, Lord Vaizey, a former culture minister, told The Times that Zelensky should be allowed to address Eurovision.
He said: ‘This is a joyful evening and a coming together of European nations and entertainers but we all know what the backdrop is and it is pathetic to hide away from it.
‘The only reason the contest is being held here is because of the conflict in Ukraine and it would be courteous to allow Zelensky to make a statement about why Ukraine is in the very unfortunate position of not being able to host.’
The Union said they were still supporting Ukraine throughout the competition by featuring Ukrainian artists and locations.
Organisers rejected a request from the Ukrainian president to make a surprise video appearance to urge the 160 million-strong audience to continue their support in the face of Russian aggression
A spokesperson for the Union said that an address by Mr Zelensky at the Eurovision Song Contest ‘regrettably cannot be granted as it would be against the rules of the event’
They said: ‘No fewer than 11 Ukrainian artists, including last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra, will be performing.
‘Additionally 37 locations around Ukraine will feature in the short film postcards that introduce each of the participating artists before they take to the stage.
We believe that this is the best way to reflect and celebrate Ukraine’s Eurovision Song Contest win and show we are united by music during these hard times.’
Zelensky has reportedly been barred from speaking at other entertainment events – the Oscars is said to have declined his request to speak for a second year in March, along with the Toronto Film Festival.
It comes as Zelensky has admitted he would have preferred the contest to be held in a country bordering Ukraine so his citizens could attend.
He told the BBC: ‘I have great respect for the United Kingdom and its society. It is an amazing country.
‘From the very start my opinion has been that if we can’t host Eurovision then it should take place in one of the countries that share a border with us such as Slovakia, Poland or any other country our people can reach easily. Somewhere near by.’
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