No reason given for withdrawal from show, called ‘homosexual flotilla’ by pro-Orbán journalist
Shaun Walker in Budapest and Flora Garamvolgyi
Wed 27 Nov 2019
Hungary will not participate in next year’s Eurovision song contest, amid speculation the decision was taken because the competition is “too gay” for the taste of the country’s far-right government and public media bosses.
While no official reason has been given for the withdrawal, the move comes amid an increase in homophobic rhetoric in Hungary, where the anti-migration prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has launched a “family first” policy aimed at helping traditional families and boosting birth rates.
Earlier this year, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament compared same-sex adoption to paedophilia, while a pro-government television commentator referred to Eurovision as “a homosexual flotilla” and said not participating would benefit the nation’s mental health.
A source inside the Hungarian public broadcaster, MTVA, told the Guardian that while no reason was communicated internally for the decision to withdraw from the contest, the assumption among employees was that Eurovision’s association with LGBTQ+ culture was behind the move.
“I was not surprised. It comes from the organisational culture of MTVA,” said the source, adding that positive coverage of LGBT rights at the media holding was discouraged, save for annual coverage of Budapest Pride.
Public media in Hungary is closely linked to the government and has been instrumental in spreading its messages around migration and other issues. Earlier, the Hungarian website index.hu quoted unnamed sources inside public media speculating that the reason for the withdrawal was likely to be that Eurovision was deemed “too gay”.
Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, described the index.hu story as “fake news” on Twitter, but did not specify any other reason for Hungary’s non-participation.
In an emailed statement to the Guardian, MTVA said: “Instead of taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2020, we will support the valuable productions created by the talents of Hungarian pop music directly.”
In previous years, the winner of a series called The Song would go on to become Hungary’s Eurovision entry. This year the programme will continue but the prize will be a chance to appear on various domestic media outlets and at festivals.
MTVA did not respond to a question on the reasons for the decision.