Hera to Represent Iceland in Eurovision

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV), The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, has decided that singer Hera Björk will represent Iceland with her song Scared of Heights at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö in Sweden this May. According to an announcement from RÚV, Hera was the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin, Iceland’s preliminary competition.

Only two days ago, RÚV launched an independent inquiry into the voting process of Söngvakeppnin. Several voters reported glitches in RÚV’s voting app. Some who attempted to vote for Hera’s main competitor, Palestinian Bashar Murad, shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. The songwriter for Bashar’s song, Wild West, submitted a written request for an independent inquiry into the error.

Few votes in question

RÚV says that both songs were affected by the voting app glitch and that Hera’s victory was dominant as she received some 3,500 more votes than Bashar. According to the voting app’s developers, only 748 votes were in question. “The votes possibly affected due to this glitch were even fewer than originally thought and it’s clear that this had no impact on the final results,” RÚV’s announcement read. “Hera Björk is the undisputed winner of Söngvakeppnin 2024.”

Saddened by the discourse

Iceland’s participation in Eurovision has been criticised in light of Israel’s ongoing participation in the competition during its military action in Gaza. Bashar’s participation was seen by many as a statement to oppose the war, but he was also subjected to racist comments during the process. Hera’s songwriter, Ásdís María Viðarsdóttir, known professionally as Ásdís, said that she wanted Bashar to represent Iceland and that her conscience didn’t allow her to participate further.

Hera said that she was saddened by the discourse. “Both in terms of how people talked about me and my supposed viewpoints, but even more so about how Bashar was treated,” she said.

Program Director Skarphéðinn Guðmundsson said that RÚV was aware of the discourse surrounding the competition. “We encourage everyone to support Hera and her team,” he said. “She will be a fantastic representative for us.”

Hera Björk Wins Amid Eurovision Controversy

A screenshot from RÚV. Hera Björk during the Söngvakeppnin final, March 2, 2024

Hera Björk has won Iceland’s Söngvakeppnin, but it is still unclear whether she will represent Iceland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Hera won Iceland’s pre-Eurovision competition with her song Scared of Heights last Saturday, beating out Palestinian contestant Bashar Murad in the final. Some have called for an independent investigation into the voting process after reports of glitches in national broadcaster RÚV’s voting app.

Iceland falls on bookmakers’ lists

Five acts performed in the televised Söngvakeppnin finals last Saturday evening, with Hera Björk and Bashar Murad voted as the two finalists. Prior to the final, Eurovision bookmakers had considered Bashar as most likely to become Iceland’s Eurovision representative and had placed Iceland in third place on their Eurovision betting odds lists. Since Hera’s win was announced, Iceland has fallen to eleventh place.

Glitches in voting app

Several Söngvakeppnin voters reported glitches in National Broadcaster RÚV’s voting app on Saturday. Some who attempted to vote for Bashar shared screenshots of error messages or indications that their vote had gone to Hera instead. Vodafone Iceland stated that any glitches were not due to a systemic issue on their end. RÚV is looking into the matter, but director of Söngvakeppnin Rúnar Freyr Gíslason has stated that the total number of votes affected by potential glitches were not so great as to influence the final outcome. The composer of Wild West, the song Bashar performed, has called for an independent investigation into the matter.

Icelandic musicians call on RÚV to not participate

There have been calls to boycott Eurovision among the Iceland public this year due to Israel’s participation in the contest. These calls have been echoed within the Icelandic music community as well. Over 550 musicians in Iceland signed a petition calling on RÚV to boycott the competition if Israel is permitted to participate. The signees include a plethora of well-known artists such as Emilíana Torrini, Bríet, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Páll Óskar, and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Of Monsters and Men). The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists also released a statement urging RÚV not to participate in the contest.

RÚV Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that the broadcaster would leave it up to the winning musician of Söngvakeppnin to decide whether or not to participate in Eurovision in Malmö, Sweden this year.

Iceland Delays Eurovision Decision Amid Gaza Concerns

Eurovision Söngvakeppnin 2020 Daði Freyr Dimma

RÚV has decided to postpone its decision on Iceland’s participation in Eurovision until after the national Song Contest concludes and in consultation with its winner. The decision follows protests related to Israel’s participation in Eurovision amid the Gaza conflict.

Decision deferred

RÚV has decided to sever ties between the Song Contest — an annual music competition determining the country’s representative for Eurovision — and Iceland’s participation in Eurovision. The Song Contest will go ahead as usual, but the final decision on Iceland’s participation in Eurovision will not be made until after its conclusion and in consultation with the winner. The reason for this decision is criticism that has arisen over Israel’s participation in the contest, despite the conflict in Gaza.

Concern among contestants

In an interview with Síðdegisútvarpið on Rás 2, Stefán Eiríksson, director of the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV), stated that those contestants entering the Song Contest are understandably concerned about calls to boycott Eurovision in light of the conflict in Gaza. These concerns have been communicated to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). In light of this, RÚV has decided to defer its final decision on participation in Eurovision — held in Malmö, Sweden, this spring — until a winner has been announced.

Read More: Daði’s Eurovision is 2020

“Under this new arrangement, contestants will still apply with the goal of participating in Eurovision on behalf of Iceland,” Stefán remarked. The decision on whether or not Iceland will participate in Eurovision will then be made in consultation with the winner, which means that whether or not Iceland will participate in Eurovision will not become clear until mid-March.

“The contestants, like us, are concerned about the situation that has arisen. The Song Contest has been our way to prepare for Eurovision, and we have previously announced our intentions to participate in Eurovision like before. We do not, however, know what the future holds,” Stefán stated.

A completely new approach

“Deciding on RÚV’s participation in Eurovision after the Song Contest concludes is completely new,” Rúnar Freyr Gíslason, executive director of the Song Contest, remarked. He stated that contestants who have been selected for the competition, and who will be revealed on Saturday, have accepted this compromise. Criticism of participation in Eurovision certainly has not gone unnoticed by them.

Rúnar and Stefán also noted that, following conversations with their colleagues abroad, the demand for boycotting Eurovision due to Israel’s participation does not seem to be widespread, with the exception of Iceland and Norway. Like Iceland, Finland is also planning on hosting its national Song Contest before deciding whether or not to participate in Eurovision.

When asked whether this wouldn’t place undue pressure on the winner of the Song Contest, i.e. to decide on Eurovision participation on behalf of the nation, Rúnar replied that there was “pressure on everyone.” However, he added, it was important to emphasise that RÚV did not shape foreign policy — and much less so a potential Icelandic contestant in Eurovision.

“A huge decision to make.”

Reacting to the news, Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, chairperson of the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT), observed that it was good that the Song Contest would go ahead as usual; it is an important platform.

“Perhaps it’s time to remember that the Song Contest is one thing and Eurovision is another, even though they are obviously interconnected.”

When asked about the pressure placed on the winner of the competition, given that Iceland’s participation in Eurovision is a matter close to many hearts, Bragi stated that he hoped RÚV would provide ample support to the person in question:

“One does worry a bit about what that pressure will be like and what the situation will be then. It’s a huge decision to make and hopefully, RÚV will support the winner well, whoever it may be, and assist them in making a decision. This is an extremely complex issue.”

As previously noted, it will be revealed on Saturday which songs and performers will participate in this year’s Song Contest.

This article was updated at 10:06 AM.

FTT Urges RÚV to Boycott Eurovision if Israel Competes

Eurovision Söngvakeppnin 2020 Daði Freyr Dimma

The Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT) has urged RÚV not to participate in the 2024 Eurovision unless Israel is excluded. Director of RÚV Stefán Eiríksson has previously stated that RÚV does not plan on withdrawing from the contest.

Shifting the responsibility to RÚV

The board of the Icelandic Association of Composers and Lyricists (FTT) has issued a statement addressed to Stefán Eiríksson, Director of the Icelandic National Broadcaster (RÚV). In its statement, the FTT urges RÚV to withdraw from the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest – unless Israel is denied participation on the same grounds that barred Russia, after its invasion of Ukraine, from competing last year.

“The members of our association are urging us to make our voices heard,” Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, Chairman of the FTT, told RÚV yesterday. Bragi pointed out that the association speaks for songwriters and not for musicians in general.

“According to our reading of the room, people will be very unhappy and may even withdraw personally,” Bragi Valdimar observed. With its statement, the association wants to put the decision into the hands of RÚV as opposed to the artists themselves. “We wanted to shift the responsibility to RÚV, as there is a board meeting today,” Bragi explained yesterday.

Director Stefán Eiríksson has previously confirmed that RÚV would participate in Eurovision, as it has done since 1986.

The statement from the FTT in full:

“The Board of FTT, the Association of Composers and Lyricists, urges RÚV not to participate in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest unless Israel is denied participation in the contest on the same grounds as Russia in the last competition.

It is our collective duty to take a stand against war and the murder of innocent civilians, including children. We always have a choice not to associate our names with such actions, whether we are individuals or state institutions.

We owe nothing to those nations that exercise excessive force through military power and should not share the stage with them in events that are typically characterised by joy and optimism.

Board of FTT:
Bragi Valdimar Skúlason, Chair
Védís Hervör Árnadóttir, Vice-Chair
Sóley Stefánsdóttir
Ragnheiður Gröndal
Andri Ólafsson
Hallur Ingólfsson
Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir”

RÚV Apologises for Misconduct of Photographer in Grindavík

Grindavík earthquakes crevasse

Yesterday, a Grindavík resident shared footage of a RÚV photographer trying to enter her evacuated home, sparking disapproval on social media. RÚV and the involved photographer subsequently issued apologies, acknowledging that the actions violated the news organisation’s ethical standards.

Not in line with ethical standards

Yesterday afternoon, a Grindavík resident shared footage from her Ring camera of a RÚV photographer attempting to enter her home, which had been evacuated owing to ongoing geological unrest in the area: “A journalist walked up to my house earlier today, took pictures, tried to open doors, and then looked for a key!” Incensed by the incident, the woman requested that journalists leave the homes of Grindavík residents “alone.”

RÚV subsequently expressed its regret over the incident and offered an apology to the residents of the house and to the people of Grindavík. Heiðar Örn Sigurfinnsson, News Director of RÚV, emphasised that the behaviour was not in line with RÚV’s code of ethics:

“Our journalists have strived to report on the events in Grindavík with respect for the residents and their properties. The practices seen in the video do not reflect the editorial guidelines or the ethos of the newsroom. We have traced the incident back to a misunderstanding and haste at the scene, but will subsequently review our procedures and guidelines, emphasising to all field reporters the importance of respecting the privacy and properties of Grindavík residents, and not causing them any more discomfort or distress than they are already experiencing.”

Photographer apologises

Following RÚV’s press release, the photographer in question, Ragnar Visage, apologised for his behaviour on social media:

“Dear friends, as I am probably the most unpopular person of the day, I sincerely apologise for my behaviour in Grindavík today. I was in a complete rush, and I was the only one left in town (apart from the first responders), and I was asked to capture indoor footage. In a moment of utter thoughtlessness, and amidst all the chaos, it seemed most straightforward to try to enter the nearest house. Idiotic, I know! I have received considerable reprimands from rescue workers, understandably, and have sincerely apologised to them. This behaviour is in no way in line with the principles of RÚV or the spirit in which the newsroom operates.”

Icelandic Whaling CEO Defends Suspended Vessel

Hvalur, whaling company,

In a recent interview with RÚV, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Iceland’s only whaling company, defended a recent incident that led to the suspension of one of his vessels. Kristján cited mechanical failure and criticised the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) for its lack of expertise and procedural lapses.

Untenable situation

In a recent interview with the news programme Kastljós, Kristján Loftsson, CEO of Iceland’s sole whaling company, addressed questions concerning an incident that resulted in the suspension of operations for one of his whaling vessels.

Kristján explained that the incident on September 7 was accidental, involving a hook entangled in a winch. This mechanical failure left the harpooned whale alive and attached to the hook, with the crew unable to either reel it in or release it. “It was an untenable situation with no better course of action available,” Kristján stated.

He further argued that a video capturing the incident was misleading. “The footage, taken by an inspector from the Directorate of Fisheries, employed by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), utilised zoom features that distorted the actual distance of the whale from the vessel,” Kristján said. He contended that the whale was out of range for immediate euthanisation, making the suspension of the vessel’s activities based on the video unjust.

Kristján criticised MAST’s expertise, stating, “To my knowledge, the organisation lacks individuals with a comprehensive understanding of fishing.” He estimated that approximately 70% of MAST’s staff consists of general office workers and veterinarians. Kristján also claimed that MAST had failed to consult with the Directorate of Fisheries before making the decision to suspend operations, thereby violating its own protocols.

Fulfilling the quota impossible

When questioned about the likelihood of the suspension being lifted with only ten days remaining in the hunting season, Kristján Loftsson responded, “I’m loathe to peer into the brains of MAST’s employees. I refuse to do it.”

Kristján concluded by revealing his intention to apply for a new whaling licence once the current one expires. He also disclosed that the company has thus far hunted fifteen whales, approximately 10% of the total quota of around 160, acknowledging that fulfilling the quota is unlikely. While he confirmed experiencing significant financial losses, he declined to specify the amount.

Laufey Sets New Jazz Standard on Spotify

Bewitched / From the Start

Icelandic musician Laufey’s album Bewitched broke Spotify’s jazz streaming record with 5.7 million day-one streams, RÚV reports. The standout track From the Start has also gained viral traction on TikTok.

5.7 million streams on its first day

Icelandic musician Laufey’s new album, Bewitched, has set a record for the most streams in the jazz category on Spotify on its day of release, accumulating 5.7 million streams, RÚV reports. The previous record was held by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s 2021 album Love for Sale, which received 1.1 million streams on its first day.

Bewitched, released by music label AWAL on September 8, is Laufey’s second album. It features the British Philharmonic Orchestra on two of its tracks and consists mostly of original compositions, along with one cover song.

It received a five-star review from NME: “There’s a certain magic in Laufey’s music. Filled with swooning strings and gently sighing backing vocals, her lush offerings can evoke both the Great American Songbook and modern pop greats like Billie Eilish.”

The track From the Start has gained notable attention, particularly on the social media platform TikTok, becoming the most popular song from the album to date.

Speaking to the radio programme Reykjavík síðdegis yesterday, Laufey was overjoyed by the reception: “I strive to focus less on metrics and more on creating the highest quality music possible. Yet, when the album is released and the statistics begin to roll in, it’s always an unexpected delight.”

Pussy Riot Performs at LungA Art Festival in Seyðisfjörður

Pussy Riot

The protest and performance art group Pussy Riot took the stage at the LungA art festival in Seyðisfjörður last night, RÚV reports. This is the first time that the group performs in Iceland after two of its members were granted Icelandic citizenship.

“Cannot express the honour in words”

The LungA art festival, which is held annually in Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland, began last Monday, July 10. Among the performers at the festival is Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist protest and performance art group, which took the stage last night.

Pussy Riot’s show, referred to as a play, is entitled Riot Days and is based on the eponymous book by Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina. As noted on the group’s website, Riot Days is “a story of resistance, repression, and revolution in a mixture of concert, rally, theatre, and political happening.”

Read More: Velvet Terrorism (Iceland Review speaks to Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina)

Pussy Riot has recently toured parts of Europe with Riot Days, with the LungA art festival being the last stop on the journey. As noted by RÚV, this is the group’s first concert in Iceland since two of its members received Icelandic citizenship. Speaking to RÚV, Maria Alyokhina stated that she was grateful for having been granted citizenship. “I cannot express this honour in words.”

Maria also commented on the group’s performance: “I think it’s very important to find these bridges and use the common language of art to talk to each other because the war is about discrimination and hatred.”

Majority of Surveyed Advertisers Want RÚV to Stay on Ad Market

A recent study conducted by the Bifröst University examined the attitudes of large advertisers towards RÚV’s presence in the advertising market. The majority of respondents were in favour of RÚV remaining in the ad market.

Majority in favour

The question of whether or not the National Broadcaster (RÚV) should remain in the advertising market has long been a controversial one. In broad strokes, opponents argue that RÚV, being partly funded by government subsidies, enjoys an unfair advantage over private media companies, while proponents maintain that RÚV’s programming would suffer and that a portion of the ad revenue that RÚV would receive would be diverted to foreign advertisers (Google, Facebook, e.g.). Minister of Culture and Business Affairs Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir recently announced that she would not be withdrawing RÚV from the ad market. (A working group was established in April to examine the effect of the withdrawal.)

A recent study conducted by Bifröst University has now shed light on the perspectives of advertisers regarding the potential removal of RÚV from the advertising market. During a seminar held in the House of Business, some significant findings were presented yesterday morning, RÚV reports.

The survey’s authors sent a questionnaire to 111 executives of Icelandic companies and received 56 responses. Out of the respondents, around 30% were from companies with over 200 full-time employees, while 19% represented companies with 100 to 200 employees. The researchers were satisfied with the response rate.

One of the key insights from the study revealed that approximately 36% of advertisers expressed their intentions to either reduce their advertising budget or redirect it outside the country if RÚV was eliminated from the advertising market. The survey also found that a majority of the respondents, about 64%, viewed the removal of RÚV from the advertising market in a negative light.

Following the presentation of the research findings, a panel discussion was held with marketers active in the advertising market.

20% to divert funds to foreign media

Nearly half of the respondents in the survey believe that advertising funds currently allocated by marketers would shift, to some extent, towards other media channels. Over 20% of advertisers stated that they would completely divert their advertising budgets to foreign social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

The study also found that Sjónvarp Símans was identified as the private media company that stood to benefit the most from the removal of RÚV from the advertising market. However, only around 19% of respondents expressed their intention to advertise there. A smaller percentage, specifically 7%, indicated their preference for advertising with Stöð 2, Stöð 2+, and Sýn’s sports channels.

Conversely, the radio segment of the survey revealed a different trend. If RÚV were to be removed from the advertising market, 47.6% of advertisers would shift their focus to Sýn’s radio platform. Bylgjan, Sýn’s most popular radio station, was identified as a favoured prospect.

It is noteworthy that 9.5% of advertisers expressed interest in targeting podcast listeners and considered advertising on that platform. Additionally, 7.1% of respondents stated their intention to advertise with Árvakur’s radio media (Árvakur is the publisher of Morgunblaðið).

Filmed commercials to decrease significantly

The study noted that the film industry would undoubtedly face significant consequences if RÚV were to be removed from the market. Over 30% of respondents indicated that they would either greatly reduce their production of filmed TV commercials or cease production altogether in such a scenario.

The survey conducted by the researchers also aimed to explore other aspects, including the comments made in relation to the bankruptcy of Torg ehf, the company that owned and operated the media outlets Fréttablaðið and Hringbraut. Sigmundur Ernir Rúnarsson, the former editor of Fréttablaðið, argued that RÚV’s dominant market position had played a part in the company’s bankruptcy.

Respondents were asked about their perceptions regarding the impact of RÚV’s presence in the advertising market on the bankruptcy. Around 67% stated that they believed RÚV had little or no influence on Fréttablaðið’s fate. Regarding the TV station Hringbraut, half of the respondents held the belief that RÚV played little or no role in its closure.

Conclusions

As noted by RÚV, the study’s main results indicated the following:

Two out of three respondents were in favour of the status quo, that is, of RÚV remaining in the advertising market.

84% of participants use RÚV to publish TV and radio advertisements.

35% of advertisers said they were likely to transfer their advertising money to other national TV channels if RÚV was taken off the market.

36% of advertisers would either reduce advertising money or divert it to foreign media.

59% of participants believe that the absence of RÚV would have a major impact on their ability to achieve set advertising goals.

63% of advertisers who produce filmed ads think it is likely that they will reduce that production if RÚV were removed from the ad market.

Mouse Infestation “Unlike Anything” Exterminator Has Seen

In an interview with RÚV, a seasoned exterminator has stated that Iceland is currently experiencing a mouse infestation the likes of which he’s never seen. He encourages people to take the necessary precautions.

A 43-year career in extermination

Despite their small stature, mice can be an outsized pest for homeowners. Árni Logi Sigurbjörnsson, an exterminator of 43 years, has been busy over the past days – in light of a countrywide mouse infestation.

“The infestation traces its roots to favourable weather conditions,” Árni told RÚV. “Flush growth of vegetation last spring has meant plenty of nourishment for mice. Then when you have these long days of rain and the temperature begins to drop – hovering around freezing during nights – they begin to seek shelter in cars and homes, cottages and bales, because mouseholes aren’t exactly ideal.”

Árni recommends that individuals take good care of their possessions by taking the necessary precautions and installing mousetraps; mice can squeeze in through holes as small as ten millimetres. “I encourage people to be on their guard because mice, even though they’re small, can wreak great damage.”