The BBC has admitted that it cut out a gay protest from a programme to mark the 60th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Boos from the audience before the Russian singer and 2008 winner Dima Bilan appeared on stage were removed for a televised version of Eurovision’s Greatest Hits.
The programme aired on BBC One on Friday and was an edited version of the live concert that took place at the Hammersmith Apollo earlier in the week. Eurovision’s Greatest Hits was presented by Graham Norton and Petra Mede.
The jeers from the crowd were aimed at Russia’s encroaching anti-gay laws rather than Bilan, who has voiced his opposition to legislation and previously signed an open letter condemning the government’s actions.
“There was indeed a lot of booing from the crowd when Graham and Petra initially introduced the Russian act Dima Bilan,” a BBC spokesperson told Pink News.
The spokesperson explained that Graham had talked directly to the audience and told them the concert was “not a competition” and said “we are here to support all the acts, so be nice”.
“Once Graham had addressed the crowd the introduction was re-shot, Dima was cheered and welcomed to the stage, got a great reception and put in a top performance which was broadcast [on the] night.”
The Independent’s music critic, who was also at the concert, noted that Graham told the audience, “You can boo in Vienna [this year's host city], you can boo at home, but not here.”
This is not the first time a Russian Eurovision act has been booed, with identical Tolmachevy twins facing the crowd's wrath during their performance last year.
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When Russia “phoned in” to share the voting results for its nation, the audience could again be heard loudly booing as the countries spokeswoman delivered its top points.
Eurovision’s Greatest Hits featured iconic acts from across the singing competition’s long history, including last year’s winner Conchita Wurst, Israeli pop star Dana International and Finnish rockers Lordi.
The programme was co-produced by the BBC and the European Broadcasting Union and aired in over 20 countries.
This year's Eurovision Song Contest will be taking place in Vienna, Austria on 23 May.
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