BBC bans European flags at Eurovision event - offers Union flags instead

PUBLISHED: 18:52 08 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:35 10 February 2019

The BBC handed out Union flags after taking EU flags off audience members. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/BBC/PA Wire
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The BBC handed out Union flags after taking EU flags off audience members. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/BBC/PA Wire .

The BBC has defended a decision to ban the audience of its ‘Eurovision: You Decide’ programme from waving European flags.

The EU Flag Mafia outside the BBC studios in Manchester. Photograph: EU Flag Mafia.The EU Flag Mafia outside the BBC studios in Manchester. Photograph: EU Flag Mafia.

Pro-EU campaigners from the group the EU Flag Mafia were present outside the Manchester studios handing out the flag of Europe ahead of the broadcast where viewers will decide the UK’s song contest entrant.

But audience members were told they will not be able to take the flags inside or wave them during the filming of the programme.

It has led to accusations of bias from pro-EU campaigners. Others on social media were in disbelief that there would be a ban on the EU flags at an event that celebrates European music and culture.

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Remain supporter Helen Bracken tweeted: “Come on BBC Eurovision - let the flags in! Stop censoring freedom of expression. Let’s show Eurovision audiences around Europe that we are proud Europeans! #ProudToBeEuropean”

Madeleina Kay - who self-styles herself as EU supergirl - said: “Brexit Broadcasting Corporation strikes again.”

The BBC said it was a safety decision but admitted that alternative flags were being offered inside the venue.

The spokesperson said: “As a safety precaution we check all personal belongings, including all flags, into studio security while ticket holders are in the studio audience, but do however supply the audience with UK flags once they are inside.”

In 2016 the European Broadcasting Union relaxed flag rules to allow national, regional and local flags of the participants during Eurovision broadcasts, and said “this is in addition to the flags of all UN member states, the EU flag and the rainbow flag, as stipulated in the original guidelines.

“The EBU also proposed a more tolerant approach to other flags as long as the audience respects the non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest and do not deliberately attempt to obstruct the camera views.

“This proposal was approved by the Eurovision Song Contest’s governing body, the reference group.”

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