TEL AVIV – The Eurovision Song Contest on Tuesday finally announced Israel as the host of next year’s competition, adding that joint preparations with the Jewish state’s public broadcaster Kan were now underway.
The announcement ended deliberations over whether Israel would indeed host the 2019 contest amid concerns from the contest’s organizing body, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), that it was being “politicized.” A government plan to split Kan into two separate divisions would have also nixed Israel’s eligibility as host, but for now those plans have been shelved.
Representatives from Kan met with the EBU in Geneva, Switzerland in order to formulate a timetable for the coming year.
The statement made no mention of which Israeli city will host the event. So far four cities — Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Eilat — are reported to be in the running.
“As planning for next year’s contest begins, a decision on which city will host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will traditionally be made following a bid process. The Host City is due to be announced, along with the official dates of the two Semi-Finals and the Grand Final, by September this year,” the EBU statement said.
In a bid to ensure the country would host the competition in 2019 as planned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said his government would adhere to Eurovision guidelines.
“The government will act according to European Broadcasting Union rules,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.
The statement came after Netanyahu held a meeting with Culture Minister Miri Regev, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Last week, Regev declared that if Israel can’t host the Eurovision song contest in Jerusalem next year, it should not host it at all.
“I will recommend to the government that the Eurovision — if it can’t be in Jerusalem — we shouldn’t host it,” Regev told Israel Radio.
“It costs Israel NIS 50 million. It is designed to market the country. It’s a beautiful music show that brings every country here,” she said.
“I think personally that if the Eurovision won’t be in Jerusalem, it would be wrong to invest NIS 50m. of public funds. The State of Israel’s capital is Jerusalem and we should not be ashamed of it.”
Regev’s remarks came in response to reports that the EBU requested that 2019’s Eurovision be held in a “non-divisive location.”
However, the organizing body later said it has no problem with the show being in Jerusalem as long as the city is selected through a fair bidding process.
The winning song of 2018’s Eurovision was Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” which has almost 100 million views on YouTube.