The future of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest… seen from Spain

Virginia loves the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and would like her country Spain to return to the contest they left years ago. She is puzzled as to why the contest is fighting for its life, but she puts her thoughts into what can be done to save it. 

Editoral: On the 30th of November 2013 the last edition of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest was held. Two writers from EuroVisionary watched the contest in order to see how it could be improved. The two writers have been selected based on that they came with each their attitude towards the contest. They were asked the same two questions about why their country isn’t taking part and what the future of the contest looks like, and both give ideas as to how the Junior Eurovision Song Contest might be able to survive.

Why isn’t my country participating at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest?

Spain participated in the first four editions of the contest, from 2003 to 2006, being the most successful country of that time after achieving a fourth place, two second places and having won it once with María Isabel singing Antes Muerta Que Sencilla in 2004 after having received votes from all participant countries.

Former director of TVE, Javier Pons, announced unexpectedly in 2007 the withdrawal of Spain from the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. He stated that the show "promotes stereotypes with which we disagree". He believed that "some lines can be crossed and it would be dangerous". A few months ago, Yago Fandiño, responsible for children’s programming on TVE, was asked by the ombudsman for TVE’s viewers about the possibility of returning to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. He answered that TVE left the contest because they "perceived the format as becoming too banal, especially with the image of kids" and told they also received several complaints from the audience about it. He said that now that EBU was rethinking the format, if the changes would fit the interests of TVE, they would be willing to come back.

The Spanish audience loves Junior Eurovision, and the great viewing figures that the show achieved when it was broadcast proves it. In fact, even though the show is not broadcast on TVE since 2007, we can find a more recent example of how the Spanish audience is still interested in Junior Eurovision: When the eleventh edition of the contest was held in Kyiv near the end of last year, the hashtag #JESC2013 was the trending topic in Spain on Twitter for several hours.

It has not been made known exactly which changes it is that TVE is asking EBU for, but I think that what matters is how much the children want to be there and enjoy the experience. In Spain we are very proud of all the former Junior entrants and all of them have stated that they were immensely happy when they had the chance of representing their country in such an event. There did not feel any kind of pressure at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, it was just an experience, an opportunity to learn and grow, where success or failure were simply part of that process.

We have so much talent amongst our youth in so many areas, but there are not so many TV shows that allow kids to be able to express themselves through art. Taking a look at the programming of TVE, there are no talent shows for kids except the junior edition of Master Chef which is about to start. That is a big difference between Spain and the countries from Eastern Europe where there are plenty of children’s talent shows, which are very attractive to the younger audience.

Probably, TVE wants some old rules to be back and EBU should also find a way to make it more attractive for the broadcaster. Maybe with some kind of benefits, or just providing more extra content that can be aired during the weeks prior to the competition such as how were the selections in other countries or how children are preparing their staging. Just make it more than a two-hour show on a Saturday evening.

I think it would also be interesting for the broadcaster to update the contest with some educational components besides fun and competition. I know it is an entertainment program and not an educational program, but it might be easy to instill important values in children and get the kids learning something while watching.  Of course, EBU should commit to be strict in relation to the fulfillment of some of the rules. Junior Eurovision should not be a recreation of the Eurovision Song Contest, with children trying to be little adults.

What does the future of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest look like?

Many schools and organizations hold talent shows every year just because they are fun, involve the community, and give children a chance to show off their special skills and I think that it is important for kids to be a part of something like the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Kids want self-expression and that is a great way to do it alongside other talented kids from the different regions of Europe.

It is more a showcase of talents than a competition. It is not about winning or losing, but about showing off something you are proud of. Some participants may want to share music, dance and traditions related to their native heritage which would be very interesting for those kids from all over Europe watching the show.
In order to ensure the future of the competition, the main goal might be to increase the number of participating countries. The latest editions of the contest have had a lack of geographical diversity and its future depends on the presence of some Western nations. How to convince these countries? I really do not know why this is being so difficult.

At the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, diverse countries work beautifully to create both friendly competition and a sense of connection between very different lands. For those kids taking part, it is more than just a show. It is a wonderful teambuilding experience about how music can be used as a form of communication, as a way to express thoughts and feelings. They are children competing against children and every performer works very hard on their act to do their best. There is nothing wrong with that but changes can always be made.

Perhaps, it would be nice to introduce a new voting system accessible to children with national juries made up of kids instead of music professionals or bring back some old rules and encourage kids to write their own country’s contest entry being able to tell their stories and share it with the world. It would also be good giving the children the opportunity to create their own choreography or design their outfit. Maybe there would be a decline in the quality of the songs but it should not be a big issue for an event where children from all over Europe join to perform their songs, but also to have fun together with a non-competitive spirit.

Children are not like puppets that are there just to perform a song. They are an active part at the event and it would be great to let them highlight some aspects of their local culture during the show. When you watch a show of this nature, it should give the impression that they are a group of friends who love music and they just want to show what they do and what they love. That is an attitude that we will never see at the senior contest, but the junior version should try to get that balance between competition and fun to make it only a positive experience for these young people. There is a clear difference between it being work and being fun and that is what makes junior Eurovision so refreshing. The experience is amazing for these children who want to have a career in music and their participation may become an incentive for the development of their careers when grown up.

I think it would be interesting to introduce some kind of mentoring and internship programs to help youth who have participated at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest to achieve greater goals in their artistic careers.
We should keep in mind that some European broadcasters are dealing with big financial problems and can not afford such expenses, but EBU really should consider how to make the junior Eurovision attractive to these countries and get them to see it as a good investment in the youth culture of their countries. Junior Eurovision has been held in some countries, which so far have never had a chance to host a Eurovision final and it has also seen successes of several countries which historically have never been among the most successful at the Eurovision Song Contest.

It is an ideal setting for children from a wide range of backgrounds to meet and interact socially and it should be perceived as a high-standard family entertainment show. We do not want the junior Eurovision to be too serious, it has to be for children.

The debate has been going on since the show first started and probably the rules will never be perfect. The Junior Eurovision Song Contest has many challenges ahead and it just needs to find the right balance.

As a contrast to Virginia’s thoughts we also recommend you to read the blog from Charlotte. She lost interest in the contest years ago, but has given her thoughts as to how it might be able to survive. You can read those thoughts in her blog:

Read Charlotte’s blog 

Read more in the news archive

Liked what you've read? Subscribe to our Eurovision news!