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”