Racism is so prevalent in some Eastern European countries that a black singer could not hope to win the Eurovision Song Contest, Andrew Lloyd-Webber has claimed.
The composer told the Radio Times that the UK's recent disastrous showings could not be attributed to poor musical performances alone.
"I don't think there's any point beating around the bush," Lord Lloyd-Webber said. "Did you see the Eurovision Song Contest this year? Well, if you had seen it, you might have noticed one thing – I don't think there was one black face on the programme."
Lord Lloyd-Webber led a nationwide search for the UK's 2009 Eurovision entry and co-wrote the song, which was performed by Jade Ewen, a black singer from London. The host country was Russia and Ewen finished a creditable fifth.
The peer said: "At the press conference in Moscow, I was asked: 'Why have you brought a black artist?'
"I said, 'Because she is the most talented artist that we had and I think she's a major, major star'. I think we would have come second but there's a problem when you go further east."
Was he saying that racism is the reason why the UK didn't win?
"Well, it doesn't mean that we would necessarily have won that year but we could have come second," he said.
"If you're talking about Western Europe – Germany, fine; France, fine; Spain, fine; Greece, fine; Scandinavian countries, fine. But Ukraine? Not so good."
A BBC spokesperson said: "The BBC is committed to Eurovision and has no evidence whatsoever of any racism around the event."