Romania was kicked out of the Eurovision Song Contest on Friday over failing to pay debts by the national television station TVR, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said, an unprecedented move in the kitsch-laden show’s history.
“It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action. We are disappointed that all our attempts to resolve this matter have received no response from the Romanian government,” EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre said in a statement.
Government spokesman Dan Suciu said “a technical legal solution” to settle the debt payment issue could not be found.
Scandal and political controversy are common at the Eurovision Song Contest, which is watched by millions in Europe and beyond.
TVR recorded losses of about 24 million lei ($6.04 million) last year on turnover of 484 million, its annual report submitted to parliament showed.
“I’m very disappointed. This took me by complete surprise, given that I’m innocent,” singer Ovidiu Anton, Romania’s choice, told Reuters.
The EBU said TVR’s debts go back as far as January 2007 and that they totalled about 16 million Swiss francs ($16.39 million).
It said TVR will also lose access to other EBU member services including the Eurovision News and Sports News Exchanges, the right to broadcast specific sporting events, legal, technical and research expertise and lobbying services.