Thursday, September 12, 2013

Morocco and the Eurovision Song Contest

Back in 1980 Morocco became the first and only African country to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. It was not a happy occasion. Apart from what Eurovision sceptics would describe as a shocking lapse of taste in entering at all, the result was dismal - 7 points and ending up in 18th place.  After the “national shame” of only coming second to last, the Moroccan king Hassan II decided that his country would no longer participate in the contest.

Then, a couple of years ago, the rumours started that Morocco might return to Eurovision. The head of the French delegation, Bruno Berbes, had called a return of Morocco “very likely”.  But that was stamped on by Fatima El Moumen, the head of international relations at the Moroccan broadcaster Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion et de Télévision (SNRT), “I have never heard of any intent of SNRT to participate in the contest.”

After the Arab spring and Berbes’ suggestions many fans had hoped for a return of Morocco. Other countries in the region are snuggling up to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) but none are expected to join at this stage. After the departure of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, Tunisia announced that it would work more closely with the EBU.  However, the country has musical integrity and participation at the Eurovision Song Contest is, thankfully, not envisaged at all. None of the Northern African and Middle Eastern nations that are part of the EBU and thus eligible to enter the Eurovision Song Contest have thus announced any interest to debut at the contest.

This week the rumours sprang up again and on the 11th of September SNRT claimed that they had not ruled out the possibility of making a comeback in the near future, but currently have no plans to make their return at the 2014 contest

So what had changed?  Competition within Morocco is a starting point. The popular public channel 2M TV has applied for EBU membership as well and 2M TV is known for challenging taboos by debating controversial issues and established a reputation for itself as a symbol of freedom of speech in Morocco. The channel regularly broadcasts Western news, films, sports and music.

If the broadcaster is accepted as a full EBU member it is likely that they will consider participation at the Eurovision Song Contest.

In 2011 the then Excecutive Producer of the Eurovision Song Contest, Svante Stockselius had explained, that the rules had been changed. If a channel is in the process of becoming an EBU member, they can already apply for Eurovision even if they’re not a full member yet. The deadline to send in the needed application papers was the beginning of December. Due to this new rule 2M TV may have apply for Eurovision and in case their application to become an EBU member is accepted, could participate in the Eurovision Song Contest

The bottom line is that nobody knows if and when Morocco will compete again. What is certain is that it will not be at the forthcoming 2014 Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen next May.

Morocco's Moment of Eurovision Glory

Morocco is the only African nation to have competed in the Eurovision Song Contest. Morocco debuted at the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with Samira Ben Said with the song Bitakat Hob ( Love Message), placing 18th. The country never returned to the contest after their debut in The Hague. Samira Ben Said went on to become one of the biggest stars in North Africa enjoying massive success in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Dubai, Tunisia and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

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