Do you realise how much we pay for the thrill of watching dancing meatballs?

A couple of years back, Ewan Spence had the same question, and put in a Freedom of Information request to the BBC, Eurovision's sponsoring partner in the UK. They refused to disclose all their production costs [3] for broadcasting the competition on BB1, BB3 and Radio 2. But they revealed that the payment the BBC makes to the European Broadcasting Union was £279,805 in 2009, and £283,190 in 2010.

Since then, journalists have been watching the Eurovision bill grow. Last year, the BBC spent £310,000 – the eqivalent of 2,130 licence fees – on broadcasting Britain's disastrous entry by 76-year-old singer Engelbert Humperdinck (which only four countries gave any points at all—not that we have had many points since the Eastern Europeans turned up and formed a pact to vote for each up).

BBC officials say that their EBU membership also buys it other things, like membership of a news exchange, rights to concert broadcasts and activities around the Olympics. But broadcasting the Song Contest also imposes other costs on the BBC, including travel, hotels and incidentals for its broadcast staff.

Last year, the contest cost €48m to stage in Baku, Azerbaijan. This year's, in Malmö, Sweden, the aim was to do it for much less. Anyone with a television (i.e. virtually everyone) is forced to pay for this embarrassing, political show, whether they watch it (and the BBC) or not. Can that be right?