This editorial is written from the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of the other editors, the EBU or escYOUnited as a whole.
Just as we thought we were all set up for this year’s contest (only 15 days until the final guys!!), we find that the EBU has announced another change to the voting procedure. Whilst this is clearly not as headline-grabbing as the changes introduced in 2016 to split out the televotes and jury votes, I feel that it is still a significant change to the way things work at Eurovision this year and could result in a few surprises! The main difference is the weakening of each individual juror against the whole group and this has been achieved by using an exponential weight model instead of the currently used linear model.
So what does that mean? To a lot of us, “exponential” and “linear” probably don’t conjure up much of an image, but it’s fairly easy to explain. Up until this year, the jurors simply ranked all the songs in the semi or final and gave their favourite 1 point, right down to their least favourite with 26 (or however many songs are in the semi) points. Obviously this total is reduced by one if the jurors’ home country is also in that semi/final! The five jurors’ individual points are then added up and the country with the lowest total gets 12, next lowest gets 10 and so on. The flaw in the current system is that the weighting of your ranking is the same at the top and at the bottom. This might sound perfectly logical at first glance – it is certainly the simplest way of doing things – but the issue is that it allows one juror’s dislike of a song to pull it a long way from the group’s overall opinion. In an extreme scenario, if four jurors out of five place a song as their favourite and the fifth puts it last, it makes it very hard for that song to get the jury’s 12 points, even though it is the clear favourite. This allows individual jurors to effectively sabotage songs they don’t much like, or suspect that the other jurors will really fall for, in order to try and boost the chances of their favourites getting a higher total.
So what’s the alternative? Well, for example, you could only count the jury’s top ten towards the points given to a song, although this risks a number of ties. Another option, as EBU has chosen, would be to use an exponential weighting system instead of a linear one to allow high scores to have a higher weighting. Now, instead of giving more points to countries you dislike, you instead give fewer, so effectively the system is turned on its head (and reflects how the total jury points are allocated of course – higher the better!), but it’s no longer a simple case of 1 point per place. No, instead they are ‘weighted’, such that the points difference between first and second counts for more than that between twenty-first and twenty-second. The graph below has been released by the EBU to help explain the new method and clearly shows the significance difference!
The idea of weighting your favourites should, in fact, come quite naturally to us Eurovision fans. After all, through the televote, we give points to our top ten, yet the famous “douze points” to our favourite! Whilst the weighting of our 3rd place to 10th place is the same (a song one place higher gets one more point), we give an ‘extra’ point to our 2nd place and so it gets 10 instead of the expected 9. We do the same with our 1st place and so it gets 12 instead of 10. And, of course, the difference between the 11th place and 26th place is a complete irrelevance as they all get 0. The new voting system for individual jurors more closely reflects how the jury totals are used when allocating points. Certainly, it will have its flaws – a song which is a strong favourite of one juror and disliked by many will now overtake a song which everyone places mid-field – but overall I feel that it is a robust change and should allow the jury vote to be more balanced. After all, a considerable amount of power is concentrated in the hands of the juries: Five people have the same say as the entire televoting population of a country!
So overall will this see a major change in results? Well, it should favour any entries which provoke stronger reactions, as it will only take a few jurors being fans to boost the score, as the low rankings of the others will count for less. Entries which all jurors find middle-of-the-road will suffer as they don’t get the positive attention a song will now need to do well in the jury vote. Oddly enough, this is similar to the situation in the televote – after all, how many of us ring up to vote for our 10th favourite song of the year? Most people will just vote for their top few songs, so again here songs which provoke strong reactions will do better than those which lots of people quite like. So to tentatively apply to this year’s songs, I would suppose Israel and Norway will probably do better as they certainly will have big fans and big dislikes! Perhaps Australia and Bulgaria will find it harder to get points if they don’t have big fans amongst the jurors. It’s certainly hard to predict how exactly it will change things, but I am sure we shall be looking closely to see how it did change things after the contest! The previous big change to the voting was a huge success, so let’s hope that this works just as well, even if it is a little more behind the scenes.
Will this really result in any big changes to who does well in the jury vote, and who will be the winners and losers as a result? What do #YOU think? Share your thoughts with us below or on our forum!