Putin’s Eurovision Setback

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s efforts to set up a Eurovision-style song contest in the East hit its first stumbling block when the European Broadcasting Union pointed out that someone would need to buy the rights.

“We own the rights to an international song contest. We would be happy to sell the format to Prime Minister Putin,” European Broadcasting Union director Bjoern Erichsen explained in a statement titled “Just What Putin Needs.”

As far back as May, when Moscow staged the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, Putin has been proposing that East challenge West in a head-to-head battle of song contests. A reported 125 million Russians watched the Moscow final.

The Russian leader has suggested that Russia, China and some Central Asian countries launch a regional song competition on the same lines as Eurovision.

He did it again a couple of weeks ago on a tour of China, which seems to have prompted the EBU statement.

This time, he talked of how a new battle of the bands will strengthen ties among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional economic and political pact designed in part to counter NATO.

“In the world of television, if you come up with an idea of a TV show, you cannot just imitate the format and take it over in exactly the same way with minor changes,” said EBU spokesman Sietse Bakker.

The broadcaster did not say how much it would ask for the rights, but Russia is spending lavishly on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and Putin has a reputation for doing whatever needs to be done to get what he wants.

He’s also trying to bring the world’s top events to Russia to showcase it as a prosperous, modern European nation.

Apart from the Eurovision finals, Russia hosted football’s 2008 Champions League final and is building ice arenas on the Black Sea coast to stage the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Putin’s also had meetings with FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, to push Russia’s bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup soccer finals.