Michael Koziol, smh.com.au
When Guy Sebastian took to the stage at Vienna's Stadthalle in May, it should have prompted universal jubilation. Here was the torchbearer of Australian pop music, 16,000 kilometres from home, representing the antipodes in Europe's most hallowed musical fixture for the first time. A missed opportunity for a national holiday, surely.
But amid the celebration there was cynicism. How much had this ploy cost? What was the point? And what would be the point of doing it all again, as SBS [see] announced this week?
Days after the grand final, SBS managing director Michael Ebeid was hauled before a Senate estimates hearing to answer those questions. The network had incurred two fees, he explained: the usual payment for broadcast rights, plus a fee for Sebastian to perform in the final. Sony Australia, Sebastian's record label, had covered the latter.
Ebeid wasn't naming numbers, but precedents suggest they are not excessive. Countries that pay extra to advance straight to the final, such as the UK and Spain, have forked out about €350-400,000 ($525-600,000) in recent years. Other Australian industry insiders say the total expense of our entry would have hit seven figures.
"Eurovision's a really modest cost for SBS, and in programming terms it's an incredibly modest cost," says the network's chief content officer, Helen Kellie. The total paid by SBS – and therefore by taxpayers – was actually lower than in 2015 than in previous years, she says, partly due to growing commercial backing.
Whatever the outlay, ratings were up by about 15 per cent, Ebeid told Senate estimates. It had been a "a real coup" for Australia and had probably generated "more than $60 million of free publicity" for the country, he said. And the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade praised Eurovision in its annual report, acknowledging it as a boon for "public diplomacy" that had showcased Australia's creative talent to 200 million viewers. ...