Hungary has pulled out of the Eurovision Song Contest amid speculation that the annual competition is “too gay” for the country’s right-wing government.
Hungary has not given an official reason for the withdrawal. But a source at its public broadcaster, MTVA, reportedly said staff believed the move was about Eurovision’s association with LGBT culture.
“I was not surprised. It comes from the organizational culture of MTVA,” the anonymous source told the Guardian in a report published Wednesday.
The source said no explanation had been provided internally, but that positive coverage of LGBT issues was discouraged in the newsroom with the exception of Budapest Pride. MTVA did not respond to requests for comment.
Also Wednesday, Hungarian website index.hu quoted MTVA sources as speculating that the government thinks Eurovision is “too gay” to participate in.
When an opposition lawmaker last week asked a government minister why Hungary was withdrawing from Eurovision, he was told that the public broadcaster was responsible for the decision. Hungary, like other countries, has taken years off from the competition before, most recently in 2010.
However, pro-government commentators have cheered the withdrawal as a win for opponents of the LGBT movement.
Magazine editor András Bencsik said Eurovision has “been reduced to” a “homosexual flotilla.” He said staying out of the contest was good for Hungary’s “mental health.”
“Many young people thought that this is something for people under 18, but at this event the destruction of public taste takes place with screaming transvestites and bearded women,” Bencsik added.
In 2014, Austrian singer and drag queen Thomas Neuwirth, whose stage name is Conchita Wurst, won Eurovision with the song “Rise Like a Phoenix.” The victory made him an international LGBT icon.
When Hungary withdraws from Eurovision
Hungarian officials have lately sent other signals of opposition to the LGBT agenda. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has repeatedly said that marriage is between a man and a woman, recently launched a “family first” policy aimed at helping traditional families and boosting birth rates.
In August, István Boldog, a lawmaker from the ruling Fidesz party leader called for a boycott of Coca-Cola over an ad campaign featuring gay people kissing. And in May, the speaker of the Hungarian parliament, László Kövér, said same-sex adoption is morally equivalent to pedophilia
Activists have warned of an international rollback of LGBT rights, from Brazil to Russia. In the United States, an annual survey has shown young people’s tolerance of LGBT people falling in recent years.
The scandal recalls opposition to Eurovision in Russia, where a homophobic MP called for the country to withdraw in 2014, saying that participating would “contradict the path of cultural and moral renewal that Russia stands on today”.
The European Broadcasting Union, which runs Eurovision, said: “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.”
Eurovision 2020 will be held in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in May 2020.