Hungary has pulled out of next year’s Eurovision song contest amid speculation the decision was triggered by a backlash to the competition’s LGBT-positive messaging.
While no official reason has been given for the withdrawal, sources within Hungary’s public broadcaster reportedly believe it is due to a rise in homophobic rhetoric within the country around the contest, with one pro-government commentator calling Eurovision a "homosexual flotilla".
In previous years, Hungary’s state-owned public service broadcaster MTVA has hosted its own song contest with the winner going on to represent Hungary in Eurovision.
But the broadcaster announced last month that the upcoming contest would not serve as a decider for Eurovision, but rather focus on the Hungarian hit of the year.
The announcement was taken as a sign that Hungary was likely to withdraw from Eurovision 2020, a decision confirmed with the publication of the list of competing countries last week.
A source at MTVA told The Guardian that staff within the organisation widely believe that Eurovision’s LGBT-friendly ethos was behind the decision to withdraw.
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“I was not surprised. It comes from the organisational culture of MTVA,” the source told the newspaper, adding that positive coverage of LGBT rights was discouraged within the organisation.
It follows a report by the Hungarian website index.hu last week which cited public media sources who believed Hungary had withdrawn because Eurovision was perceived as "too gay".
It comes as Hungary’s Right-wing government promotes traditional family values and aims to boost birth rates, while the speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly has previously compared gay couples wanting to adopt children to paedophilia.
Viktor Orban, the prime minister, has denied the claims but did not offer any explanation for Hungary’s decision not to enter the annual singing contest, which it has done every year since 2011.
Now in its 65th year, the contest will be hosted by Amsterdam in 2020 and feature 41 countries with Bulgaria and Ukraine returning after a year’s absence.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the Eurovision contest, told The Guardian: “It is not uncommon for EBU members to have breaks in participation in the Eurovision song contest”.
“We hope to welcome their broadcaster MTVA back to the Eurovision song contest family soon,” the EBU added.