“WHEN the sun goes down in Horehronie, I feel like singing, dying, and living.”

“WHEN the sun goes down in Horehronie, I feel like singing, dying, and living.”

Whoever tries to translate the rest of Horehronie, the song Slovak Television (STV) is sending to represent the country at the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, will face three problems. The first is the complex message. Not only is the singer Kristína uncertain about her attitude towards life and death, but she also enjoys “lying on the grass dreaming, of what, I myself do not know”. That’s probably the kind of thing that can happen to you when you find yourself amid “the most beautiful trees”, “that silent brotherhood which says – come”. The other problem is how to translate “Horehronie”. The term describes the region around the upper parts of the Hron River. But, to be honest, the Hron is no Mississippi or Amazon. In fact, it’s no Danube either, so European viewers may have some trouble understanding where exactly it is that Kristína is experiencing all these emotions.

The third big question is – what is all this good for? Eurovision is a showcase for second-rate acts, usually playing a mix of world-music, dance-floor, opera, and violin-based disco. Why it is that this meta-genre most appeals to viewers of this particular show is a mystery. The participants hardly reflect the true tastes of Europeans, since you almost never hear any of the involved acts on radio, or see them on real music television.

But whereas some countries at least choose a nice quiet way of finding their representatives, the Slovak mutation is much more sadistic. The winner was chosen after six quarter-final rounds, two semi-finals and the last grand national finale, all of which were televised live. Hours and hours of performances by aging socialist pop stars, Pop Idol participants, and hopeful stars of the future – all desperate enough to give Eurovision a try. All of this on public television, which refuses to say how much the project cost, even though it is financed by public money.

Were it not for the economic crisis and STV’s dependence on public finances, one would be more lenient towards the station’s excesses. But in the current situation, Eurovision just adds to the feeling that perhaps Slovakia could do without a public broadcaster. STV produces little quality and eats up cash which would be better spent on things that actually have a meaning and give people a chance to find good music, news, and services. Such as a good internet connection. However, the government is unlikely to let go of STV. Despite falling viewership, it still wields influence, and having a TV station where the PM or president can come and talk anytime they like, without being molested by critical journalists or political opponents, can come in handy.

Sound frustrating? Luckily, Slovaks can always sing along with Kristína: “When it’s meant to hurt, then just let it hurt, one day the woods will cover it all with dirt.”

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