Eurovision boycott Cinema under investigation by Charity Commission

The Rio cinema was the subject of numerous complaints after boycotting its annual Eurovision screening over Israel’s involvement


The Rio Cinema in Dalston, which has hosted the UK's largest Eurovision screening in past years, has cancelled this year's screening of the song contest over Israel's inclusion. (Photo: Andrew Woodyatt)

The Rio Cinema in Dalston is under investigation by the Charity Commission after its decision last week to cancel its screening of the Eurovision Song Contest over Israel’s participation in the competition.

A number of Jewish politicians and organisations wrote to the Charity Commission over concerns that the independent cinema, which is run as a charity organisation, has contravened the Charity Commission’s rules in its decision to cancel the screening.

Conservative MP Michael Ellis wrote one such letter condemning the Rio Cinema for dismissing a “popular international music competition because the only Jewish nation is competing.”

“Regardless of the views of any person, group, corporation or charity trustees on Israel-Gaza, it is incontrovertible that Israeli performers, singers and dancers have nothing to do with the conflict,” Ellis wrote. “This boycott is an expression of prejudice which as far as I am aware has not been applied to other countries during times of conflict.”

He added: “The behaviour of this charity is an intolerable affront to the Jewish community and to the longstanding principles of prudence required of charities by law.”

Joshua Farbridge, the Charity Commission’s Head of Compliance, responded to Ellis’ letter on Thursday and said that the Charity Commission has already received letters of concern from members of the public regarding the Rio Cinema’s boycott of Eurovision.

Given that “the facts do appear concerning,” Farbridge confirmed that the Charity Commission has opened a “regulatory compliance case into the charity” and contacted its trustees to for further information.

He added: “If we find that there has been wrongdoing, we will take action to address this.”

The investigation comes nearly two weeks after the Rio Cinema announced that it had "collectively decided not to screen the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest this year while Israel remains in the competition.”

The cinema’s statement, shared across its social media platforms on 16 March, added: “We firmly believe that the Eurovision Song Contest has the power to bring people together across the world, and when its core values of inclusivity, equality and universality are upheld, it can be a genuine force for good. With its own slogan in mind, we hope that we can all be United By Music again soon.”

The Rio cinema has been approached for comment. 

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