Eurovision in Review: Part 2 – 50/50?

The night finished as it should, with 12 points to the winner - Austria. Credit to www.eurovision.tv

The night finished as it should, with 12 points to the winner – Austria. Credit to www.eurovision.tv

The dust has settled, the hangover long since past. Other people have been far better in providing their own analysis of the Eurovision results – but I’m not going to let that stop me! In part one I gave brief consideration to what different placings meant to individual countries. Which country had their best or worst placing in a while, who might be happier than expected with their 24th place for example (San Marino – hello!). This post however considers the alternatives.

Voting System Explained

I’m going to assume I’m teaching people to suck eggs here. The current 50/50 voting method was introduced in 2013. There are five jurors who rank all the songs 1-26, and a similar method is done with the televoting. The overall rankings are then combined to give an ‘overall’ ranking for each country which then determines their points. For example – Poland came 1st in the UK televote, and 26th in the jury rankings. Therefore Poland was ranked 13th by the UK and recieved 0 points.

This is in contrast to the previous 50/50 voting method used 2009-12. Under this method each national jury awarded 12-0 points and so did the televote. These results were then combined to produce a ranking of points which were then converted into the usual 1-8, 10 then 12 points. There has been a lot of debate this year about which system is best. This post will review the advantages and disadvantages of jury, televote and the old 50/50 system in comparison to the present system.

Jury or Televote?

Jury v Televote. Credit to www.wikipedia.org

Jury v Televote. Credit to www.wikipedia.org

As you can see I haven’t worked out the split myself. Given the 100% jury against 100% televote result is widely available I have taken the information from wikipedia (I know – the shame!). However this throws up some interesting results. You will notice as is usually the case the winner does not alter. Austria would always have won, similarly the appreciation for Netherlands is constant – having achieved 2nd and 3rd respectively. Sweden and Armenia also hold up quite well coming 4th or 2nd and 3rd or 5th respectively. Obviously our favourites were well placed.

Let us consider however the other wider differences. You can not help but feel sorry for Poland and MaltaPoland came 13th under the current system. Under the pre-2008 system they would have come 5th highlighting that perhaps certain televoters will do anything for scantily-dressed milkmaids. Malta who finished a disappointing 23rd, came 6th in the jury vote, but 24th in the televote. Whilst Poland’s 14th is nearly a midpoint between their 5th and 23rd televote/jury positions, Malta’s is nowhere near – is this just a quirk of the system?

Working the inequality round the other way we could consider Hungary. Hungary finished 5th with ‘Running’. Televoters ranked the song 10th, Jury’s ranked the song 4th. Here the ranking is closer to that of the jury’s than the televoters, but still between. Spain on the other hand outstrips its 15th (televote) and 11th (jury) placings to finish 10th overall. Ukraine also manages this, coming in 6th place against an 8th (televote) and 12th (jury) ranking. In short the scoreboard is littered with examples where the logic does not necessarily follow.

So should we make a clear choice for one or the other? Bring back juries!! or Bring back 100% televote!! I would argue no. Juries and televoters act as a good counter balance to one another. Yes, there will always be voting scandals with each – and given the absolutely comprehensive results given by www.eurovision.tv that can be found here I am sure someone, somewhere could write a pretty good thesis on this year’s contest.

This is a song contest. Coloured by politics, coloured by novelty, coloured by friendly rivalry – there has to be some balance. I would argue the screeching of Poland was not a song worthy of 5th place. Similarly the song was a lot better than 23rd. In contrast the Eastern European mother country of Russia always does well under the televote – this year coming 6th. Juries nearly always rank the Russian song lower – in this case 13th. The current system balances this out – though not as much as I would like (Russia came 7th) .

The current system also gives balance to songs that are of excellent musical quality against what might be considered popular. As much as I disliked Norway for its slow plodding pace and an atmosphere akin to Gary Jules’ Mad, Mad World, it would not have deserved the 16th place awarded to it by televoters. The juries balanced this out, and the song came 8th overall. We must never forget the reasons for the balance between the public vote and juries. In the 1990s juries were rounded on for handing the contest several times to Ireland who seemed to be able to win each year with an Irish glint and a decent ballad, whilst the United Kingdom’s Europe-wide hit from 1996 (Gina G’s Oooh Aah Just A Little Bit) could only muster 8th. In contrast, televoters were rounded on during 2000s for national allegiance. I remember watching some vox-pops on BBC in 2008 where people in various Eastern Europeans were asked about their voting intentions for that evening’s contest. They all said their nearest neighbour and when asked why just offered the reason that they were neighbours and they had to stick together. Public popularity, music and loyalty have to balance somewhere. So having come to the conclusion that public and jury have to have a say – is this 50/50 method the right way to go?

How 50/50 should 50/50 be?

There is one big ethical problem with the current voting method. Jury voting is conducted on Friday night. Televoting is conducted on Saturday night. The voting order is produced in the early hours of Saturday morning based on the jury results which are already known. The cost of phoning to vote on the night costs 15p in the UK (mobile operators vary). Is it ethical to get people to televote on the outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest when the organisers already know they had no chance of influencing the outcome by voting for that country? Poland topped the televote in United Kingdom and Ireland. We could theorise how many people voted for Poland – but in every case Poland was given 0 points due to a poor jury ranking. Is it ethical to ask people to spend their money when the outcome in certain cases has already been determined?

There were 6 countries in each televote run in each country which even if the entire country’s population had voted for they still would have achieved 0 points. A vote for Ukraine, Iceland, Montenegro, France, San Marino or Poland in Ireland was a waste of money. They were still getting 0 points. In United Kingdom a vote for Romania, Armenia, Montenegro, Poland and France again was a waste. You could argue that in most cases jury and televoters agreed on the top ten, just not the exact ranking – but that is not always the case. The United Kingdom jury ranked Iceland, Greece, Switzerland and Denmark between 10-20th place, but they gained points due to a high televote. This was also the case of Romania in Ireland and Hungary in the Ukraine. Other examples are readily available.

The point is that this system is open to abuse as much as the old system. A jury can kill a song’s chances in the national vote by simply ranking it below 20th place. When you are asking people to pay money to vote, you have to ask whether this is fair or not. Should we go by a system where the jury ‘knocks out’ 6 countries from that national vote on the Friday night to avoid this problem? Or should jury and televoters vote at exactly the same time? There must be some computer software around somewhere that could easily do the job. Alternatively do we simply resign ourselves to the fact that the case of Poland was an unusual quirk of the system and is unlikely to happen again?

Personally I am of the opinion that no matter what system you have there will always be advantages and disadvantages but the ethics of the system have to be sound. In this particular case they are not and the EBU will want to go back to the drawing board again over the coming 12 months.

Conclusions

The 2014 contest was always going to be a much fought over crown. Regardless of voting system, whether 100% jury, 100% televote or 50/50 in its various guises, the conclusion was clear – Austria was the undisputed victor. The issues the voting system poses for the future should not be under estimated – the phone voting scandal in the UK a few years ago may impact on future ethical considerations regarding televoting however, examples such as this are isolated. I do however take the point that issues such as this should not occur regardless.

With regards to the voting system I have read a lot over the last week about whether the current system is fair. On balance I think it is the best of a bad bunch, but a ‘jury knockout’ where by televoters don’t vote for countries ranked 20 and below would be the morally correct stance if they are to continue with the system. I wholly oppose 100% televoting as much as I do 100% jury – either in the modern contest would not befit a ‘song’ contest in its current form.

Finally, well I said to friends on the night it would be between Austria and Netherlands and I was right. Sweden and Armenia just weren’t confident enough favourites to maintain the positions given to them before the contest, though full points to Aram mp3 and Conchita Wurst for actually coming to the London Preview Party (Sanna? Common Linnets? Where were YOU!). As always some of my most liked songs did well, and others didn’t – but that’s the joy of Eurovision. Now close season has begun..