Eurovision song contest feels the pinch

Thu May 27, 2010 9:18am EDT
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By Wojciech Moskwa

OSLO (Reuters Life!) - A bit slimmer but still extravagant at 55, Europe's biggest song contest Eurovision is scaling down its starry ambitions to a harsh new economic reality.

Watched by some 124 million Europeans and staged by public broadcasters, the Eurovision song contest has seen its budget shrink by a quarter in 2010 and four countries have dropped out due to funding woes.

NRK, the public broadcaster from host nation and last year's winner Norway, has sold its rights to the World Cup to a rival to finance the pop festival and signaled it would not have the cash to stage another show if Norway wins again.

"Of course the economic crisis is affecting us, we have fewer countries competing this year and they all withdrew for the same reason -- budget cuts," said Svante Stockselius, Executive Supervisor of the contest.

"It may be good to stay out for a year, then come back the next instead of cutting back on children's programs or news," he told Reuters, stressing that turning a profit was not the motive behind one of Europe's most watched shows.

The Czech Republic, Montenegro and Andorra have dropped out of the competition altogether, while Hungary decided not to enter a contestant but will still air the show.

NRK said it will spend 211 million Norwegian crowns ($32 million) to put on the gala, which has grown in past years and now includes three nights of televised competition -- two semi-finals and a final this Saturday.

Last year, Moscow spent a record $43 million on a glitzy show which used 30 percent of the world's entire stock of LED screens on a lavish stage, with the Russian government reportedly footing the bill for some $30 million.   Continued...

<p>Thea Garrett from Malta performs her song "My Dream" during a dress rehearsal for semi-final one of the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo May 24, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong</p>