Point may offer most scope if RTE rises to new Eurovision challenge


THE most likely venue for next year's Eurovision Song Contest, if RTE agrees to host the event, would be the Point Theatre, where the 1995 and 1994 contests were held.

The Point has a number of advantages it is at least £1/2 million cheaper than a venue outside Dublin, as the Millstreet Eurovision in 1993 showed, and RTE, having already used it twice, can move in just a week before and stage the event with minimum fuss and maximum expertise.

Already there have been calls for RTE to host the event in Belfast or Derry, as a symbolic peace gesture. Dublin MEP Ms Bernie Malone said yesterday it should be held in Derry or Belfast as a joint North South peace initiative. She suggested the cost could be shared with either the BBC or UTV. Similar calls were made, after the 1993 and 1994 contests.

According to the rules, though, Ireland did not win the Eurovision Song Contest, RTE did, as the contest is between broadcasting stations, not nations. The Eurovision Song Contest is organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The songs are entered by member organisations, which are public service national broadcasting organisations. The contest could be held in Belfast only if the BBC won.

If Ireland does not want to host the event in 1997, then it would go to Norway, the runner up.

Director general of RTE, Mr Joe Barry, and his senior colleagues will have to make a decision over the next two weeks, according to the head of television, Mr Liam Millar.

The Eurovision Song Contest will cost approximately £2.5 million to host. This corresponds to the losses on the programme side that the station is expected to report later this year.

RTE is about to face competition from a new national radio station, Radio Ireland. Ironically, one of the directors of the new station is Ms Moya Doherty who, as an RTE producer, devised the Riverdance interval act which has become more successful that any Eurovision song. There will also be competition from TV3.

The effect of this is already being felt in the cost of acquired programmes. RTE had sole access to these programmes. However bidding against another station in its own market is pushing prices up. The industry estimates that the presence of TV3 in the marketplace will mean a 50 per cents increase in the price of acquiring the most popular programmes.

Further pressure on RTE's finances will come from Teilifis na Gaeilge and the need to increase its drama output.

The benefits for RTE of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest are probably wearing a bit thin.

Last year, about 350 RTE personnel were involved in the production. When it was being hosted in Millstreet and the Point Theatre, RTE executives pointed, to the technical benefits of staff handling the latest computer technology, of designing a massive set with laser lighting, and administering a giant media event.

The Labour TD for Dublin Central Mr Joe Costello, has called or the Eurovision Song Contest to be funded by the Government and the EU.

Speaking at a meeting of Labour Women's National Council he said that more time was spent decrying the cost of another win than welcoming the international success and appreciating its cultural and tourism benefits.

However, RTE should not left to pick up the tab for hosting the 1997 contest. Because it is European event with a national dimension, both the EU and the Government of the host country should jointly fund the cost of the contest, Mr Costello said.