A few weeks ago an op-ed, Opinion: It’s time to abolish the jury vote for Eurovision semi-finals, was published in ESCxta (Link to the article: ***).
The topic of voting has been brought up in many forms probably throughout the history of the contest. Question: Do we know the voting results of the first Eurovision in 1956? 😉
A quick rundown of voting:
For the two semifinal and final rounds, juries from each participating country rank songs from 1 to how many participants in that round, then the top ten songs are given one of the following points – 12, 10, 8 – 1 based on their final rankings. Note that there is an exponential weight model that gives more weight to higher-ranked songs, which (in a way) prevents the severe impact of one juror killing a song with his/her ranking. The other piece of the puzzle is the televote/public vote, in which the viewing audience vote for their favorite songs. For the two semifinal rounds, the songs with the top ten combined jury and public votes advance to the final round.
Since this seems like a pretty easy system, why the controversy? During this year’s Eurovision (ESC22), Azerbaijan’s Nadir Rustmali managed to advance to the final round with 96 jury votes, but with ZERO televotes. I don’t think that has ever happened before, but I have to look it up to be sure.
Several folks in the fandom were shocked that a song receiving zero televotes advanced to the final. Note: the semifinal scores are not released until a day or two after the final round. Thus, folks have been suggesting/implying/demanding that changes be made to the scoring system.
While the author of this op-ed piece suggested removing the jury vote in the semifinal rounds, I actually have another idea. Note: I have not really researched the ramifications of this idea (i.e., I’m just talking out of my a**). I think the jury vote should be used ONLY for the semifinal rounds, and the televote should be used only for the final. However, this comes with a couple of considerations.
Consideration 1 – Expand the number of jury members for each country: Right now, each national jury has 5 members. Perhaps, this number can be increased to ensure more diversity in musical tastes from the jury so more unique entries could advance. Typically, ballads showing off strong vocals tend to get ranked higher by the juries than those that do not. I mean while a strong vocal is a great thing to have, it is not the only thing that makes a song good or great. For instance, Konstrakta’s In Corpore Sano (Serbia) was one of my favorite songs from ESC22 primarily because of its uniqueness. However, I would imagine that most jury members simply thought this was just some performer talk-singing while washing her hands on a stage for three minutes.
In the second semifinal round, she received 174 televotes but only 68 from the juries. I think having larger national juries consisting of folks from various musical backgrounds would have improved her jury vote. Then again, this might be a tough ask because I do not think that the European Broadcasting Union has any say over which people are on the national juries. Even if the number of folks in the national juries increased from 5 to 10 or so, a country could have 10 folks who primarily like ballads.
Also, expanding the jury might reduce cheating in the contest since it’s harder to get 10 folks to cheat than five. There was a little drama regarding jury votes for ESC22. Allegations have been made that Azerbaijan, Romania, Georgia, Poland, Montenegro, and San Marino were in cahoots to get their entries into the final round by giving high scores to each other entries. Here’s the funny thing. Based on the performances Poland, Azerbaijan, and maaaaybe Romania more than likely would have advanced to the final round without allegedly cheating. FYI: this chart from Eurovision World shows how the juries from these six countries, compared to the other 15 national juries, ranked the songs in the second semifinal. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think they did a very good job with their trickery. The folks at the EBU noticed this strange trend and did not use their scores for the second semifinal and final rounds.
Consideration 2 – Open semifinal voting to all participating countries: As the contest stands now, only countries that are competing (or presenting their songs, the Big 5 and the host country) in a semifinal round can vote in that round. Since the Big Five (France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the UK) and the hosting country automatically advance to the final round, they present their songs by showing clips. This does not make too much sense to me because all of the participating countries vote in the final round (even those countries that did not advance). Because all participating countries vote in the final, why not have them vote in the semifinals too? Yes, we know that certain countries will always give the max 12 points to certain countries (e.g., Greece and Cyprus), but that already happens in the final anyway.
For these types of contests, I’m always like once a jury does their job, it should be left up to the public so have the jury do its job in the semifinal rounds, and let the public take it from there. Using American Idol as an example (sorry, it was the first thing that came to mind), the judges select who is going to the on the show, but the public votes on the folks who will advance during the contest.
Also, I’m assuming that the public vote during the semifinal rounds is not really reflective of what the public thinks. For instance, which is my theory, only the hard-core fans of the contest will watch the semifinal rounds AND actually vote. Whereas, both hard-core and casual fans will watch the final with some casual fans voting in the final. It makes sense (at least to me) that the televote is not really necessary for the semifinal rounds. Several people that grew up watching the contest have told me that they really do not care about Eurovision until the grand final. They might watch the semifinal round in which their country is competing. Even if a very causal fan watches the semifinal rounds (typically held on Wednesdays and Thursdays) they probably will prefer to vote for the final since they have to pay to vote. Unless you are Azerbaijan, then you pay people to vote for you . . . allegedly.
Finally, I think my idea would be easier on the performers. Assuming they advance to the final round, performers from a non-Big Five or hosting country advances to the final would have to perform four times during ESC week. Here’s the run down of the week: Monday – jury show for semifinal #1, Tuesday – televised show for semifinal #1, Wednesday – jury show for semifinal #2, Thursday – televised show for semifinal #2, Friday – jury show for the final, Saturday – televised show for the final. There is a theory that it’s very rare for an ESC performer from the second semifinal to win the contest. I mean if they have to perform every day from Wednesday to Saturday, I can understand. Yes, everyone probably rehearses every day during ESC week, but it is one thing to rehearse and another thing to be “on” and get everything right for the jury and televote performances. Also, it is a bit annoying to see the results of the contest, but not viewing half the performances because the jury shows typically are not televised. That’s why I like the idea of having the jury only vote in the semifinal rounds . . . the public would see those performances during ESC week instead of after.