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MOSCOW -- Hungary has dropped out of Eurovision 2020 amid reports that the country's conservative government was unhappy with the song contest's LGBTQ-friendly policies.
Hungary’s boycott would be the first known case of a country deciding not to participate in Eurovision because of a stance on social issues.
The government has not provided an official explanation for the pull-out. But British media outlets, including The Guardian, quoted unnamed sources at Hungarian public service broadcaster MTVA as saying the government’s anti-LGBTQ stance was a deciding factor.
A source at MTVA told The Guardian that positive coverage of LGBT rights by the broadcaster was discouraged, other than for annual coverage of Budapest Pride.
Earlier, a Hungarian news outlet, index.hu, quoted unnamed sources in the public media who claimed that Hungarian authorities considered Eurovision “too gay” and had insisted Hungary withdraw from the contest.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called the index.hu story “fake news” on Twitter, but he did not specify any other reason for Hungary’s decision not to participate, The Guardian reported.
MTVA and the Hungarian government did not respond to requests for comment by Billboard.
A Eurovision pullout related to LGBTQ concerns would be in line with attitudes expressed recently by Orbán’s conservative government.
Orbán has repeatedly stated that marriage should only be between men and women, and he initiated a “family first” policy to incentivize childbearing by traditional families.
Earlier this year, László Kövér, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament, compared same-sex adoption to pedophilia. And a member of Orban's ruling Fidesz party called for a boycott of Coca-Cola after the soft drink giant launched an advertising campaign using photographs of a gay couple.
This would not be the first time a conservative political regime has criticized Eurovision for allegedly promoting homosexuality. Iin 2014, Vitaly Milonov, a Russian legislator known for his anti-gay attitudes, unsuccessfully tried to cancel the broadcast of Eurovision in Russia on the grounds that it “propagandizes homosexuality.”
When Conchita Wurst, an Austrian singer and drag queen, won the contest that year, Russian legislators and politicians criticized the outcome, and Milonov called for a boycott of Eurovision for its “blatant propaganda of homosexuality and moral degradation.”
Still, despite the occasional bluster social issues have never led to a country actually pulling out of Eurovision. Decisions to sit out the song contest have been caused by financial or political considerations.
In 2014, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Cyprus didn't take part in Eurovision, saying participation was too expensive.
In 2009, shortly after a war between Russia and Georgia over the South Ossetia region, Georgia's entry, Stefane & 3G, intended to perform a song titled “We Don't Wanna Put In.” The planned performance hit a snag, however, when The European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision's organizer, pointed out political references to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the song's lyrics and demanded that it should be replaced. Georgia refused to comply and withdrew from the contest.
In 2017, Ukraine, the host country that year, banned Russia’s entry, Yulia Samoilova, from entering Ukraine because of her 2015 performance in Crimea, a peninsular region Russia had annexed from Ukraine. Russia refused to replace Samoilova with another singer and instead sat out that year's Eurovision.
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