Saturday 1 October 2016

Sir Terry Wogan hit the wrong note on Eurovision, contest producer says

Published 16/04/2016 | 07:01

Terry Wogan and Eurovision Song Contest winner Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and the Waves
Terry Wogan and Eurovision Song Contest winner Katrina Leskanich of Katrina and the Waves

Sir Terry Wogan "totally spoiled Eurovision" by mocking acts in his commentary, one of the song contest's bosses reportedly said.

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The late broadcaster was accused of creating a generation of Britons who see the show as irrelevant and "kitsch" by Christer Bjorkman, the Swedish producer of this year's contest, who said he would "never" have given him the job.

The Scandinavian country is known for its earnest Eurovision entries and has won six times with contributions that went on to become smash hits, from Waterloo by Abba in 1974 to Euphoria by Loreen in 2012.

However, after success in the 60s and 70s, Britain "hanged" its perception of the talent contest - around the time Sir Terry's reign began, Mr Bjorkman told a music conference in London.

His critique came as British Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw accused the BBC of using the event to "make fun of and belittle other countries" as she backed the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union.

In comments published in the Daily Mirror that were made at Polar Talks London, Mr Bjorkman said "Terry Wogan himself" was the reason Eurovision is seen as frivolous entertainment in the UK.

He continued: "He did this for 28 years and his commentary always forced the mockery side and there is a grown-up generation in Britain that doesn't know anything better.

"He raised a generation of viewers believing this was a fun, kitsch show that had no relevance whatsoever."

The veteran Irish presenter, who died in January aged 77 after a short battle with cancer, first fronted the BBC's Eurovision coverage in 1971.

His stinging commentary proved to be one of the many highlights of his career.

Sir Terry would snipe at the acts, the political manoeuvring of Eastern Europe's voting and the half-time entertainment, but it was all done in a spirit of affection.

However Mr Bjorkman said: "It totally spoiled Eurovision. Because of what Terry Wogan did, the UK don't put in their best efforts.

"If you go back to the 60s and early 70s when Britain ruled this competition that wasn't the case.

"So somewhere along the line you hanged your perception of it. Wogan did what he did very well, make fun of something, but if I would have been in charge I would never have chosen him."

Sir Terry handed the baton to Graham Norton in 2009, who during last year's contest said of Albania's entry: "It's three minutes we're never going to get back."

Britain has won the contest five times. The last victorious Eurovision campaign came in 1997 with Katrina and the Waves' Love Shine A Light, while i n 2015 Electro Velvet came 24th with their offering, Still In Love With You.

Shaw, who won the 1967 competition with Puppet On A String, criticised the BBC's coverage.

She said: "I have been disappointed that the BBC has chosen of late to use this event to make fun of and belittle other countries and to send our worst offerings instead of our best, which would help to raise the standard of everyone."

The singer, 69, said the campaign to leave the EU was "retrogressive" and risked dividing the continent.

A BBC spokesperson said: "Sir Terry Wogan is and always will be part of the heritage of the Eurovision Song Contest.

"His unique brand of humour brought millions of people to the competition and he unquestionably helped to establish the show as one of the TV highlights of the year to audiences throughout the UK and beyond."

Press Association

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