Saturday, May 30, 2015
ESC 2015: booing and censorship
The next day it all fell into place as I understood the audience had been booing heavily from the moment Russia took the lead and on. On the request of Russian television, apparently, EBU and ORF had foreseen this, muted the sound of the audience and added pre-recorded cheering and applause instead.
I can agree with the live audience on one thing. Russia wouldn't be my dream choice of host under the current circumstances. I'm not convinced it would even be possible to combine this event with the present Russian legislation. But that's another thing.
Polina Gagarina had spoken up for equality, vaguely but still. She had told her social media feeds what an admirable and exceptional performer Conchita is, and defended her when people wrote nasty comments. For a singer representing Russia abroad today, this is about as far you can go. Polina Gagarina was not playing it safe and yet the audience would boo her.
Could anything she said or did have made a difference? I doubt it. She could probably have wrapped a rainbow flag around her and ended her career and still get booing in return.
I'm no big fan of booing but I enjoy censorship even less. I don't know what is the official EBU line on this, but at least SVT - next year's host - often pride themselves with being "free television" and underline the importance of trustworthy public service broadcasting.
Muting booing on political grounds, replacing it with cheerful applause, is definitely crossing a line. Altering an event, pretending that what you show is the real thing, is propaganda. It doesn't matter that this is just an entertainment show. If you start airbrushing reality in entertainment it won't be long until you change things in other areas too. To please somebody. To make somebody look better.
If public service is going to mean anything to anyone, I sincerely hope we will have more backbone and a whole lot less fake applause in the future.