Russia Could Ban Eurovision Online Broadcasts Under New Anti-LGBT Law
The new edict bars "propaganda about non-traditional sexual relations" and could apply to websites seeking to air the song contest.
Websites in Russia could be blocked from broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest in May because of a recent tightening of anti-LGBT legislation that prohibits “propaganda about non-traditional sexual relations,” says Roskomnadzor, the Russian national media watchdog.
Russian officials and legislators have long accused Eurovision of promoting homosexuality. But in December, Russia adopted a law under which Roskomnadzor has the right to block any online resources that could be allegedly considered as “LGBT propaganda” or promoting pedophilia or a sex change.
“Distribution of materials of that kind is punishable by blocking access to those online resources and entails responsibility under the administrative code,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement published by state-run news agency TASS on Tuesday (March 28).
Finding “LGBT propaganda” in Eurovision, which takes place May 9-13 in Liverpool, United Kingdom, may not be a difficult task, as Russian officials and legislators have for years accused the contest of promoting “non-traditional sexual relations,” which, they claim, contradicts Russian national values.
Ordinary Russians have been avid viewers of Eurovision, especially since Russian pop singer Dima Bilan won the 2008 edition with the song “Believe.” Alexander Rybak, a Belarusian-Norwegian Russian speaker, triumphed in 2009 for Norway.
This year, however, the contest won’t be aired on any national television channels in Russia. Last year, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs Eurovision, kicked Russia out over its invasion of Ukraine. As a result, there will be no Russian entry or a broadcast on state-run Channel One, which aired the event in Russia for decades. (Most global music companies, including the three major labels, also ceased their operations in Russia after the invasion to comply with Western sanctions.)
The Eurovision final will be still available online across the globe, including in Russia — unless the Russian government bans the show under the new law.
“The Eurovision Song Contest’s values are of universality, inclusivity and celebrating diversity through music,” a Eurovision spokesperson tells Billboard. “All three live shows in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast internationally on our YouTube channel with no geo-blocking from our side except by request in participating countries that are presently full members of the EBU.”
Over the past decade, relations between Russia and Eurovision have often been rocky. The turning point was the 2014 edition, when Austrian cross-dresser Conchita Wurst won the contest, shortly after Russia adopted its first anti-LGBT law that banned “gay propaganda among minors.”
Russia’s then-deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, slammed the choice of Wurst as the contest’s winner. “Eurovision showed European integrators their Euro-prospect — a bearded girl,” he said on Twitter. Vitaly Milonov, a hardline legislator and one of the sponsors of the anti-gay law, went further, calling for a Eurovision boycott.
Still, Russian artists continued to participate in the contest. But the 2017 edition resulted in a new row between Russia and the EBU. Ukraine, which hosted that year’s event, banned the Russian contestant, wheelchair-bound Yulia Samoilova, from entering the country because Samoilova had earlier performed in Crimea, a territory annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014; Ukraine considers Russian artists performing there as violating the country’s territorial sovereignty.
The EBU tried to find a compromise, suggesting that Samoilova take part via satellite, without physically entering Ukraine, or that Russia replace its entrant. But Russia rejected both suggestions, and the contest wasn’t aired in the country that year.