It’s been one of the biggest weeks in Liverpool for years. The Eurovision Song Contest has generated heaps of positive publicity for the city.
The boost to the local economy this week – hotels, bars, restaurants – will have been significant. The showcasing of Merseyside to the rest of Europe provides a great opportunity too.
Sadly, like many post industrial cities, Liverpool can still suffer from out-of-date stereotyping.
And too much of its positive reputation inside and outside the UK can still rely on memories of The Beatles – 53 years after they split up.
Hopefully Eurovision fans and delegates will return home and recommend Liverpool to their friends.
I suspect Eurovision will do more lasting good to Liverpool than it would have done to runner-up Glasgow – a city which has faced similar challenges to Liverpool but which has played host to much more significant events than Eurovision in recent years such as the Commonwealth Games and COP 26.
But this has been a strange Eurovision Song Contest.
In recent decades, it has had a reputation in Britain as “the show you love to hate”.
BBC audience research always pointed to this paradox. It’s very rare to combine high viewing figures and a very low audience appreciation score.
Given its reputation as either as a “festival of camp” or a complete turkey, some will have wondered whether BBC News programmes should have given so much coverage this week.
Of course, the BBC itself is rightly promoting a major event which it plays a huge part in.
It must be a revelation to some outside the UK that the organisation behind one of the world’s biggest news organisations – responsible for so much excellent coverage of the war in Ukraine and providing honest information to countries with state-controlled broadcasters – is also part of showbusiness.
I wonder what those unfamiliar with Russia editor Steve Rosenberg’s skills as a pianist and deep childhood love of the BBC must have been thinking about his piano recitals in Liverpool this week.
But this all brings us back to why BBC News has been right to treat Eurovision as a major story this year – not an “and finally” or a bit of fun on Breakfast.
As Steve himself explained, for some in the former communist countries it was a symbol of western freedom.
This year’s contest is, of course, being held in the UK on behalf of Ukraine. It holds a genuine political importance this year – strange as that may seem to those who cannot stand the contest. It symbolises Ukraine keeping its freedom alive.
Still BBC News has got to be careful to ensure that the upbeat tone of much of the coverage doesn’t inadvertently slip into becoming promotional for the contest.
Wherever the BBC’s corporate concerns become news, there is no better test of the corporation’s journalistic standards than the way these are reported.
When a positive BBC event is in the news this set of principles applies too.
There’s a difference between how BBC News covers Eurovision and, say, what The One Show has done to add to the build-up.
The last time Britain hosted Eurovision in 1998, there wasn’t much news coverage – perhaps a look at the preparations on Breakfast News and the Six and a straight piece on the day itself.
The next time Britain hosts, hopefully it will be in normal circumstances and it won’t be big news.
But this year’s contest is part of a much more serious story.
PICTURED: Eurovision Song Contest 2023 final, opening. COPYRIGHT: EBU/BBC.
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