Hello Dear Readers!
The 2016 Contest brought with it a new points format. The jury and televotes would no longer be combined on the country-level, as they had been since 2009, but each would be totaled individually before being combined to achieve the final results. While this reduces the bolstering of the middle-placed songs we saw under the previous system, it puts small countries that lack the population to support a televote at a disadvantage. In 2016, San Marino, a country of just 32,500 (fewer than the nearly 38,000 that attended Eurovision in 2001), which has historically always used 100% jury votes due to its small size required a televote in order for the new system to work. The solution? Create a composite score using a selection of countries (a list which has not been revealed) that stands in as San Marino’s televote. The EBU told us that this was to be employed if any country lacked either a jury or televote. San Marino is the only one for which this procedure was used. Understandably, the Sammarinese broadcaster, SMRTV, is not satisfied with this arrangement and has supposedly created a proposal to resolve this situation. How the EBU proceeds could be an influencing factor for how other small countries to continue participation (such as Albania and Moldova, both often use 100% jury as well in the past) and for others to return (such as Luxembourg, who is starting to see renewed fan interest in returning).
While we don’t know SMRTV’s exact proposal, which I have dubbed the #SanMarinoPlan, there are three likely avenues which SMRTV will pursue.
Have Digame, the televoting partner, craft a new algorithm for smaller countries.
Right now, televoting depends on a certain raw number of votes to be certified. San Marino, with its modest population, just can’t reach the necessary threshold. However, San Marino has its own area code that differentiates it from Italy (0549), so it would be very easy to determine who is calling SMRTV’s numbers from San Marino. Whatever the current algorithm is for determining a statistically strong televote could be readily modified to fit a smaller scale. What makes this proposal difficult is that, with a smaller televote threshold, San Marino opens itself up to vote manipulation – a group could sponsor a bunch of folks to cross the border and use Sammarinese cell phones to vote for a particular country.
Allow San Marino to create a second jury of non-professionals to create a televote.
SMRTV could gather a selection of citizens or hold official watch parties in the City of San Marino, Dogana, Domagnano, and/or other major population centers where they can collect votes and use those for their televote. It is incredibly easy to have people attend an event and cast ballots, collect these votes, and report the final results to the EBU. The biggest challenge with this proposal would be the increased cost to SMRTV. Hosing these events would cost money and they would need to have two (one for the semi-final and one for the Grand Final) in each chosen city. SMRTV would have the added difficulty of gathering fans (the largest cities only have a few thousand residents) and volunteers, as San Marino lacks its own OGAE (though, I’d gladly attend and host an event as a member of OGAE Rest of the World – we support San Marino and all the countries without their own OGAE).
Create a system in which viewers in non-participating countries can vote to create stand-in televoting scores
The easiest way to reach the threshold would be to expand those eligible to vote through creating a portal through which those with IP addresses in a nonparticipating country could vote online/through the app. This would allow the EBU to have interactivity opportunities with new markets (like the US or China) without letting them participate. Depending on the popularity of this, they can institute it as some kind of back up televoting for all the countries that may need it (by randomly dividing received votes across all the countries that need a televote stand-in). The biggest difficulty, of course, is the vulnerability to being tampered with. More than that, though, it hurts the EBU’s chances for getting Luxembourg, Turkey, and other former competitors to return, as there would now be a way for interested fans to stay engaged without those broadcasters having to participate.
Personally, I think option two (SMRTV hosting viewing parties across San Marino) is the best choice. It engages fans with the Contest and ensures that the televotes are coming from within the country, reflecting the will of the Sammarinese public. However, the most realistic option would be to open voting to non-participating countries. This would allow the EBU to replace any country’s televote as needed (through randomizing the received votes). Additionally, it has the added bonus of engaging fans in countries not participating in the Contest without expanding the boundaries of the ESC. Now viewers in the US, Canada, Mexico, China, South Africa, etc., would be able to engage in the Contest on the same level as Europeans (and Australians) and the ESC would not have to allow those countries to compete. Furthermore, this can be facilitated through the official ESC app and would not significantly increase the cost to the EBU or require an in-country telephone partner.
What about the reverse situation? What if a country loses its jury vote?
Currently, the only solution for the loss of a jury vote is the composite scoring process detailed above. However, this is a more acceptable solution for this situation. The reason for the jury vote is to provide the perspective of music professionals to counterbalance the televote. It would be much harder to have a reserve of jurors in the event that a jury vote is nullified. Additionally, just as the EBU cannot duplicate the jury votes to generate a televote, it cannot duplicate the televote to achieve a jury vote. Nor can the EBU just discount the 58 points, as the new system is dependent upon an equal number of points in the juries and televotes.
Thoughts? Comments? Do you think any of these three plans would work? Do you have a different idea for what the #SanMarinoPlan could be?
Hello Dear Readers!
This year, a Eurovision is reaching a wider audience than ever before! I’d thought it would be a good idea to create a quick reference post for newbies to the Contest. Here are the top ten things you need to know in order to understand and enjoy Eurovision.
1. The Contest began in 1956 in order to bring together war-torn Europe. Starting with just seven countries, the Contest has exploded as Europe welcomed new countries. There are a total of 42 countries involved in ESC 2016, spanning the continent and beyond.
2. The participating countries are randomly split in half based on their voting history and must compete in one of either two semi-finals. Ten songs qualify from each semi-final and meet the automatic qualifiers in the Grand Final.
3. The automatic qualifiers are the host country, which is the defending champion, and the Big Five. These are the countries with the five largest television audiences in Europe and pay the most to the EBU (the organization that runs Eurovision). These countries are: France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
4. The competitors are broadcasting companies (typically government-run) that select a representative to fly the flag. Countries can choose their entries any way they like. Some opt for a competition in which artists compete with songs, some choose an artist and song internally, and some do a combination of these things.
5. Songs can be in any language, but most choose English (or partially English) to broaden their entry’s appeal. Songs cannot have offensive, overtly sexual, political, or overtly religious lyrics. All lyrics can be found, in English and French, on the official website: eurovision.tv.
6. All performers (singers, backing singers, and dancers) must be at least 16 on the day of their first night of competition. No animals are allowed on stage. All music must be provided by backing track, but all singing must be done live. Songs must be no longer than three minutes.
7. Voting results are a 50/50 combination of professional juries and public vote (televoting). Each country provides a jury of five music professionals; they watch the second dress rehearsal (the evening before the televised show) and cast their votes then. Televoting occurs during the televised show during a fifteen minute window after the last song is performed.
8. Every competing country, regardless if they qualified for the Grand Final, vote for the winner. The results of the jury are revealed, country by country. The televoting is then revealed in ascending order, from least points to most points.
9. The winning song has the honor of being reprised at the end of the show. The winning artist gets a crystal trophy shaped liked a microphone. The winning composers and lyricists receive plaques. The winning broadcaster and country get to host the Contest the following year.
10. The Eurovision Song Contest is for EVERYONE. This openness & inclusion, along with a past history of being kitschy and camp, have brought a lot of gay male fans to the ESC. However, despite stereotypes throughout Western Europe, Eurovision is enjoyed by all kinds of people across the world and has the goal of uniting us ALL through music for one a week a year.
Craving for more information about Eurovision? Check out my ESC Notes that give a look at the history, rules, and notable quirks about the Contest. They were written with a particular eye towards those new to the Contest.
Want more information specific to ESC 2016? My country profiles will satiate your appetite as they cover information for each competing nation – their history and the background of their competing artists.
Wondering how you can hear great hits from Eurovision’s past? I have assembled playlists capturing different elements of Eurovision. This includes an Eurovision for Beginners playlist with twenty of the most influencial and historically important entries of all time.
This year during the Second Semi-Final, two great productions were made wherein hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw explain the Contest in fun ways.
Expecting my thoughts and reactions to the jury show for the Grand Final? Check back in a few hours!
Support ESC Obsession and my trip to Eurovision! https://www.gofundme.com/andretoeurovision
Hyvää Paivää – hei rakas lukijat!
And Hello Dear Readers!
There’s been an uptick in readers from Finland — kiitos että luit! And thanks to all of you for reading, regardless of where you are from!
Last year, we looked at race at the ESC and I expressed my pleasure that we were seeing more and more minorities as lead performers, particularly folks of African and East Asian descent. This year, there continues to be some racial diversity, but not as much as there should be in my opinion. This year, Norway is represented by a Sami woman – Agnete. This is awesome and would be akin to a member of a Cherokee tribe representing the US or an Aboriginal singer representing Australia (which happened somewhat when DR had Australian pop star Jessica Mauboy perform during the interval act of the second semi-final in 2014). Native peoples are an integral part of a nation’s history, particularly in looking back at how these people groups were often mistreated, disenfranchised, and systematically destroyed. Having a first-nation person representing a country shows that steps, perhaps small – perhaps big, have been made and are continuing to be made to heal past wounds.
Australia is also being represented by a minority. While Im was born in South Korea, she spent the majority of her life Down Under, as her family moved to Australia when she was a child. Im has received backlash since she was named Australia’s performer. Much how many non-white performers and soccer players (read: footballers) representing European nations must deal with, from opponents and their own countrymen. While we celebrate the Contest’s ability to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons (particularly gay men), we must not overlook the very real racism that still exists. Does this mean that every contestant needs to be non-white, no. Of course not. Does this mean that hosts need to do the same mindless pandering to racial minorities as they do to gay men? Again, of course not (if anything, there should be less pandering). But it does mean that when race-based issues around the Contest occur, they need the same attention and discourse that comes when an LGBTQ+ issue arises. Likewise, fan culture needs to promote and encourage racial diversity (actually, fan culture does a pretty good job of forcing any non-white, unattractive non-gay man into the realms of invisibility, but that is a conversation for another time) and call out people when they are not. This includes not just around skin color, but ethnicity, national origin, and religion as well.
One country that has historically done a good job at bringing diverse performers to the Eurovision stage is France. They have been represented by persons and languages from across the French realm, including Corsica, Haiti, Congo, and Tahiti. This year, Amir takes the stage for his native France. His ethnic background is rather diverse, as his roots tie back to Morocco, Tunisia, and Spain as well as being ethnically Jewish and spending half of his life in Israel. Sandhja from Finland also has a multi-ethnic background, as her father is Finnish and her mother is Indo-Guyanan. Sandhja has often said that her identities, and the communities that they give her access to, inspire her music and performance.
So, once again, why do we care diversity, particularly ethnic and racial diversity, at the Contest? Because the ESC is for EVERYONE. Just like how gay male fans get excited when an openly gay performer competes (such as Hovi Star from Israel), how excited would the many more number of Europeans who are non-white be for ethnic minority performers? Those who feel like they belong to the broader community are more likely to contribute and otherwise actively participate in the community. Furthermore, when someone feels systematically excluded, it can lead to lowered psychological and physical well-being for individuals who feel marginalized. Additionally, these are the people who are most likely to violently strike out against society. We see this in the US with mass shootings, we see this throughout Europe with riots and the rise of neo-Nazi groups, and we see this in the Middle East with groups like DAESH/ISIS that specifically recruit those who are made to feel like outsiders and radicalize them to the point of striking out against those that ostracized them. Clearly, incorporating more minorities as performers won’t prevent or stop groups like ISIS, but it will make it harder for them to recruit.
And, you know, help the Eurovision Song Contest work towards its mission to unite Europe, if only for one night.
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Correction: Article has been updated to correct the spelling of Jessica Mauboy’s name and correcting the name Australia uses for its First Nations people. Eurovision Obsession apologizes for the error.