Eurovision has pulled out of China, ending its contract with the local Chinese channel that airs the show, after that broadcaster censored an Irish music video that featured an LGBTQ love story.
The European Broadcasting Union, which puts together Eurovision and licenses out broadcasts, said in a statement to The New York Times that censoring an LGBTQ love story was “not in line with the EBU’s values of universality and inclusivity and our proud tradition of celebrating diversity through music.”
The Chinese broadcaster, Mango TV, censored the video for Ryan O’Shaughnessy’s “Together,” which features two male dancers holding hands. It also did not show Albania’s “Mall” performance because of the performers’ tattoos, according to state-run media outlet the Global Times. (Tattoos are also banned from appearing on TV in China.) An image of the LGBTQ rainbow flag during Switzerland’s performance was also blurred out during Wednesday’s semi-final show.
The move comes just as the Eurovision finale is about to air from Lisbon on Saturday. Fans of the show in China, where it’s moderately enjoyed for its pageantry and spectacles, will have to miss the grand finale.
Homosexuality isn’t illegal in China, but it is still strongly stigmatized. Although an independent broadcaster did the censoring in this case, that decision was likely passed down from the government, which has released strict guidelines on what content is acceptable to show. Last summer, a government-affiliated group called China Netcasting Services Association began requiring two auditors for each piece of audiovisual content online to check if sites were adhering to “core socialist values,” which included a rejection of homosexual content. Last month, the Beijing International Film Festival dropped Oscar-winning film Call Me By Your Name, which is about a gay summer romance that takes place in Italy in the 1980s.
China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, banned all content containing homosexuality from its platform in April. But after a weekend full of online protests, Weibo has reversed its decision, clarifying that it’s not targeting gay content anymore.