Anti-Booing Technology Used in Reality Show Singing Contest

“We found the reaction last year was quite embarrassing,” contest official says.

ByABC News
May 20, 2015, 12:56 PM

MOSCOW — -- Organizers of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest are installing special anti-booing technology in anticipation that Russia’s entry may get a hostile reception at the event this Saturday.

The popular singing competition, for which European countries each submit an act and which gets watched by approximately 180 million TV viewers, is famed for its musical awfulness. But the quality of Russia’s entry, Polina Gagarina, is not why special “sound-reducers” and other tools to mask booing are being set up at this year’s venue in Vienna.

“We found the reaction last year was quite embarrassing,” said Jarmo Siim, a Eurovision spokesman. “We don’t believe it’s in the spirit of the competition.”

Siim said the director on the night would choose how to cover booing, if necessary. He did not have details on how the anti-booing technology works but said there are several options.

Last year, Russia’s entry was repeatedly booed, apparently in response to the country’s military intervention in Ukraine, but perhaps also over legislation passed in Russia that some have called homophobic. A Eurovision anniversary concert in London this March also saw a Russian pop star, Dima Bilan, booed.

The song contest, known for Eurotrash pop, glam crooning and incomprehensible fashion decisions, has a large gay following around Europe.

Eurovision is also popular in Russia, where it was once considered a way to showcase the country. But recently, Russian nationalists have attacked it as an embodiment of a degenerate, liberal Europe. Last year’s winner, Conchita Wurst, who wears a beard as well as a dress, is regularly depicted in Russian media alongside predictions Europe is on the verge of moral collapse. When Gagarina posted a video of herself kissing Wurst on the cheeks on her Instagram account, it was flooded with abusive comments.

Still, this year’s organizers say they don’t expect to have to use the booing counter-measures. Gagarina, who was put through into the final Tuesday night with her song “One Million Voices,” is second-favorite to win.

“She got probably one of the biggest applauses” at the semi-finals, Siim said. “We have no reason to believe they will be needed.”

There was no word on what measures were being taken to shield the audience from the singing.