Quick now, music lovers everywhere--here's your Swiss News trivia question of the month: Which classical passage became the theme anthem for all Eurovision related broadcasts?
Time's up. It's the 'Te Deum' from Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Triumphal March--a reminder perhaps that the early vision of a Europe-wide showpiece tier television first took flight with images of high culture.
But "Old Europe" didn't react to that musical vision as hoped in the early 1950s, and another idea took hold instead: pop music as sung and danced by contenders from an ever-growing number of member countries.
This "vision", once a mere gimmick, has caught on. Its network--one making all Europe's national TV corporations "co-producers"--today wins the applause of spore fans, pop-music lovers, and big news-event followers across the continent.
Even the landlocked, go-it-alone Swiss have succumbed to this notion of shared technology and pro-Europe partnership. As German sociologist and TV industry, watcher Stefan Kaufmann points out, "if anybody deserves to be called the 'father of Eurovision', it's a Swiss: Marcel Bezencon" (the technocrat who became director general of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation in 1950).
At the outset, Dr. Kaufmann tells Swiss News at his Federal Institute of Technology office recently, Bezencon championed the untried idea and helped arrange for Lugano to host the first Eorovision Song Contest in 1956. That year ,seven countries entered the "Eurovision Grand Prix", as it was originally known.
Each country could submit two songs in the language of its choosing. But the total performance could last only three minutes. A jury of two delegates from each country chose the winner. It was Switzerland's Lys Assia singing her "Refrain".
When the contest moved to West Germany the next year, a Dutch singer won with new roles: only one song and a scoreboard. From 1958 on, the winning country. (starting with France) became the host rite following year. The formula worked well. But in time the sheer number of contestant countries forced low-scoring countries to serve a year's penance before re-entry.
This system has soured many Swiss lately, as their singers have fared poorly and been relegated all too often. Now there's talk that Switzerland could opt out of future Eurovision song contests as Italy has already done. Swiss decision-makers have yet to make that move, but it could he just around the corner. Switzerland's last hopefuls, the 2004 entry...