OK, I have to admit it, I don't necessarily like the sound of children singing. And I am not a big fan of Eurovision spin-offs in general. But I do love the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Maybe because it gives us some Eurovision feeling in autumn, maybe because it does have the competitive element in it, or maybe just because we won it three years ago (yes and that is something a Dutch can't often say when it comes to Eurovision). For you who is not really sure about what it is all about, or who still needs some convincing about this contest here are Twelve Points about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.
1 | Melodi Grand Prix Nordic
The Junior Eurovision Song Contest started out in 2003, but got its roots in Melodi Grand Prix Nordic. MGP Nordic was a kids festival that started out in Denmark in 2000, Sweden and Norway joined in 2002 and finally in 2007 Finland debuted. EBU got inspired by the Nordic initiative and then there was the Junior ESC! Since 2009 MGP Nordic has not been held anymore. Apart from Sweden none of the Nordic countries have taken part in JESC in recent years. From 2006 to 2009 (with a year absence) Sweden was represented by three sisters in a row: Molly, Frida and Mimmi Sandén. In 2009 and 2012 Molly even made it to Melodifestivalen, the Swedish national final to the Eurovision Song Contest, with Så vill stjärnorna and Why Am I Crying?.
2 | Antes Muerta Que Sencilla
Until 2007 all participants to the contest had to be between 8 and 15, this has been narrowed down to 10 to 15 in 2007. The songs also had to be written by the performer(s) or the writer had to be on stage, since 2008 however adults may assist in the writing part. Whether grown-ups have not done that previously is flawed. The very first song to be selected for JESC in 2003, from Denmark, has been proven to have been written by professionals. Listen to the 9 year old 2004 winner María Isabel, and wonder if she really would have written the song and lyrics herself...
3 | Popular in the Benelux
Eurovision was very popular in the Netherlands in the mid nineties. Eurovision was very popular in Belgium in this century's first decade. Things have changed since then and both Benelux countries lost quite some of its interest in the competition. Things look different on the kids' side though. In the Netherlands the Junior contest is quite popular. Organising broadcaster AVRO got 300 songs submitted in 2003, in 2004 this was already almost 1200 songs and in 2005 over 2000. In 2006 the Junior Eurovision Song Contest won the Gouden Stuiver, a prestigious award for the best children's TV show. Belgium is one of the four countries to have taken part in all editions of the contest. In the beginning Wallonian broadcaster RTBF was still involved in the contest, and one year the national final was a co-production between the Flemish and the Wallonian broadcasters but for the last couple of years it's been a Flemish affaire, and highly popular amond the Flemish kids! Like in the real contest the Benelux likes each other, throughout the years they have been very generous when it came to awarding each other with high votes.
4 | I love Belarus
In the young history of the contest two countries managed to win the contest twice: Belarus and Georgia. They are more successful in this contest than in the real Eurovision, same actually goes for countries like Macedonia and the Netherlands for instance, that generally do well in the Junior, but not all too well in the grown-up version of Eurovision.
5 | Fifty : fifty
Professional juries and televotes both account for 50% of the voting in JESC. Nowadays this is also the case in the ESC itself, but it was in the Junior variant this tradition was started. Another occasion where JESC was used as a guinea pig was in 2005, when the first 5 points would pop up on screen and the spokesperson would reveal the top 5. Whilst not in force in JESC anymore due to the low amount of participants it is still in use in Eurovision due to the length of the voting.
6 | Yerevan calling!
The first Junior Eurovision (2003) was broadcasted from Copenhagen, because that is where the contest has its roots. In 2004 it was Manchester's turn to take over, but as they withdrew the contest was set to move to Croatia, eventually Lillehammer in Norway took over well after selecting their participant. In the following years Hasselt, Bucharest, Rotterdam, Limassol, Kyiv, Minsk and Yerevan had the honour of hosting the show. The winner of the contest doesn't determine the next year's hosting country, cities have to apply for hosting instead. This year the contest will be held in the Netherlands for the second time, on December 1st at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. Of the 9 hosting countries in the past 10 editions 5 still take part in the competition.
7 | 12points.tv goes junior!
We have to admit that we never paid too much attention to the Junior Eurovision, but this year will be different. We'll be giving full reports about all news in the Junior section of our site, both in English and in Dutch! The first songs have already been selected.
8 | Sweden in the JESC
Even though the roots of the contest are situated in the Nordic countries they seem to have lost interest in the recent years. In 2005 Swedish state broadcaster backed of. The year after commercial channel TV4 took over and in that year Sweden got the best result ever with Molly Sandén's Det finaste någon kan få. After two participations in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest. This year, she was back however, as a host for Lilla Melodifestivalen, which was only broadcast on radio, due to lack of interest. This in very big contrast to Melodifestivalen itself, which is hugely popular in the country.
9 | Candy Music
The last edition of the contest was won by Georgian Candy Music, singing Candy Music. This is one of the songs from the history of the Junior Song Contest that urges me to turn up the volume whenever it passes by on my iPod. Other personal favorites include Macedonia's 2007 entry Ding Ding Dong, Yakalee Yakalea, the opening tune from the Belgian national selection in 2005, Barcelona (Armenia, 2009), Stupid (Netherlands 2005) and several of the winning songs, especially the 2008 winning theme Bzz!
10 | Concerns and allegations
Despite the children's constant cries every year that the contest is not exploitation of minors, but truly just a lot of fun, certain brows were raised in the past. Calls for changes of the concept came from the Nordics and Spain. Of all participating countries in the past 14 of them have withdrawn of which 13 (the one exception being Serbia) don't show signs of returning. This is just as big a field as the actual participants in 2011. Other reasons for withdrawal have been extremely low ratings (in case of United Kingdom and France) sometimes in combination with bad results (Cyprus, Portugal and Poland, latter coming last in both attempts).
11 | Everchanging rules
Due to the fragile string the contest hangs from, it could be said rules have been relaxed a little too vividly in the past 10 editions. With the songwriter rule failing prematurely and the age boundaries being raised, this was only the start. In 2009 Ralf won with the song Click Clack, which featured many phrases in English. It started a trend for 2010 where Moldova, Belgium & the Netherlands all used an extensive amount of English in their songs. In the previous year a rule has been adopted stating 75% of the song has to be in the native tongue. Candy from Georgia managed to Georgianise some English words in their successful attempt. Also originally artists were not meant to return to the JESC stage after already participating once. An exception was made for Russia's Katya Ryabova last year and this year Russia's Lerika has previously taken part for Moldova last year. Oh, them Russians...
12 | Anyone can win
As previously stated, in Eurovision country borders usually don't have to matter. Belarus has won the competition twice despite a horrid record in Eurovision itself, same for the Netherlands which has not qualified to the Eurovision final since 2004 yet scored 2 medals in JESC thus far. An example of the point "anyone can win" has to be the Belarussian win in 2005. The nation debuted at JESC before debuting in ESC, and reached a 4th place in Copenhagen. After not doing anything worth mentioning the year later, and being deadlast in Oikotimes's public vote and betting odds, they succeeded to win in Hasselt potentially helped by the keyboard on a spring and their favourable draw.