China has strict rules against television programs with pro-LGBT content. (Weibo: Voice of Homosexuality)
A major Chinese television network has been banned from broadcasting the second semi-final and grand final of the Eurovision song contest, after it was accused of censoring parts of the show.
- Images of rainbow flags in the audience were blurred in China’s broadcast
- Ireland and Albania’s performances were also removed entirely
- Eurovision has since terminated its agreement with the broadcaster
Chinese Eurovision fans watching the contest’s first semi-final on China’s Mango TV were angered after the broadcaster removed two countries’ performances entirely, and blurred out rainbow LGBT pride flags waved by people in the audience.
The song Together by Irish contestant Ryan O’Shaughnessy was one of those removed from Wednesday’s show. The love song’s performance featured two male dancers and told the story of a romantic relationship.
Albania’s hopeful, Eugene Bushpepa, was also missing from the Mango TV broadcast — the singer has a tattoo on his arm, as did one of his guitarists.
China’s broadcasting authority banned depictions of same-sex relationships on television in 2016, and more recently blocked programs from booking guests with tattoos as part of a broader crackdown on “vulgarity”.
Mango TV is an online broadcaster connected to the government-owned Hunan Broadcasting System, China’s second-largest television network.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision and had a partnership arrangement with Mango TV, responded swiftly to the censorship.
“This is not in line with the EBU’s values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music,” the EBU said in a statement.
“It is with regret that we will therefore immediately be terminating our partnership with the broadcaster and they will not be permitted to broadcast the second Semi-Final or the Grand Final.”
‘Love is love’
The move was welcomed by O’Shaughnessy, who told the BBC’s Eurovision presenter Rylan Clark-Neal he thought it was “an important decision.”
Mango TV’s censorship was criticised on China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo, where popular pro-LGBT account Voice of Homosexuality published screen captures of the blurred-out rainbow flags.
“The incident has caused many audiences [to] complain, many of whom said that this practice is a retrogression of history,” Voice of Homosexuality wrote on its account.
Mango TV blurred rainbow flags in the audience throughout the broadcast. (Weibo: Voice of Homosexuality)
Weibo recently came under fire after banning all LGBT content on its platform. The ban was quickly reversed after a huge user backlash.
LGBT news accounts on the social media site have since reported the EBU’s announcement, attracting a flurry of comments from users.
Opinions on the ban were mixed — many users said they supported the decision to block the semi-final and grand final broadcasts, but others said Mango TV may not have had much choice but to censor the program.
“I don’t think Mango TV did anything wrong. I don’t think they have discrimination against homosexuality,” wrote Weibo user YoushiTianhui.
“The major issue is that China has policy restrictions. Mango TV will be warned by the State Administration if they don’t remove that song.”