The rumours about the UK finally returning to Junior Eurovision for the first time since 2005 have been brewing since the Contest in Paris three weeks ago, when EBU Executive Supervisor Martin Österdahl stated in a press conference that the BBC was “close to joining” JESC.
There is now information from a source close to the BBC to suggest there are plans to return in 2023, the year marking the 20th anniversary of the first Contest, in which the UK did participate.
Given four of the Big 5 nations competed at the 2021 Contest, the largest number in the show’s history, it would seem like the perfect time for the UK to rejoin the show.
However, it is the BBC, not ITV, who have been approached by the EBU. The BBC have, until now, never been a part of Junior Eurovision, while ITV were responsible for the national selection and broadcast of JESC between 2003 and 2005. They were also due to host the show in the UK in 2004 at Manchester Arena, before they pulled out due to budgeting and scheduling problems.
This is also interesting as ITV currently holds the rights to the UK edition of The Voice Kids, a format used to select entrants in many other participating countries, either directly or indirectly.
A United Kingdom return run by the BBC would also quash the possibility of entry for the home nations. Wales entered Junior Eurovision twice in 2018 and 2019, their entries handled by S4C, the Welsh-language branch of Channel 4, and BBC Alba were in talks with the EBU in April 2020 about the possibility of Scotland doing the same.
If and when this happens, this would be a return long-awaited by many fans who remember the UK’s presence at Junior Eurovision. After coming 3rd and 2nd at the first two Contests, ITV decdided not to renew their contract following 2005, citing poor viewing figures.
The UK’s best result came from Cory Speeding in 2004, who soared into second place in Lillehammer with her world peace piano anthem The Best Is Yet To Come. That year, the national final was hosted by former children’s presenters-turned-British TV mainstays Holly Willoughby, Stephen Mulhern and Michael Underwood, the latter providing UK commentary on ITV2.