What if we went back to 100% Televote at Eurovision?
UPDATE: In late 2022 it was announced by the EBU that from the 2023 edition of the Contest onwards, the Semi-Finals will be decided solely by public vote. This means that the national juries are only involved in the Final, delivered by spokespeople as is tradition. This is a massive change in the structure of the ESC and puts trust and confidence in the voting public solely in creating the make-up of the Grand Final. Watch this space –– but many of the issues, evidence and arguments listed below still apply…
Eurovision, in the modern day, is a coming together of two schools of opinion and, subsequently, combining two sets of votes: one half (50%) from the televote of those watching, and another half (50%) made up of expert juries from each competing country.
We’re not huge fans of the jury and public vote split, simply because of how the juries are picked and operate. A small group of “industry experts” are chosen by a host broadcaster in each country and they, alone, have a power equal to their entire voting public. So if five million people in a particular country vote, their entire vote is equal in weight to a hand-picked group of five people, chosen by the broadcaster (as, remember, Eurovision is a contest of competing broadcasters, not competing countries). Seems very unevenly weighted to us, particularly with how these jury members are chosen and the fact they are all kept in one room to vote, so possibly open to being swayed by one another’s opinions.
Juries have long, long been established at Eurovision. Since day one in 1956, actually. In fact, televoting is a fairly modern addition to the Contest. Ireland, being the most decorated winner at Eurovision, has actually never won a televote –– Ireland’s seven wins, which occurred all before 2000, were entirely decided by juries rather than the viewing public. There’s an issue in the juries with transparency and the amount of power these five people per-country can wield, and it’s no revelation that the public opinion and the juries’ opinions are not always aligned –– in fact sometimes at odds with one another.
Televoting came about in 1997, funnily enough when Ireland was hosting for the last and most recent time, and in that year only an initial test pool of five countries trialled public votes. So successful, it was rolled out to all countries the very next year (Birmingham 1998) and 100% televoting was the method of choice –– professional juries were always on standby in case the televoting was not able to be used for various reasons. Then, it was only a decade later around 2009/2010 that five-member juries were re-introduced officially and given a 50:50 split of the pool of available points. Since then, for the first several years, public and jury votes were combined per country and delivered as one vote. In 2016 and to the present day, the juries’ points are delivered solely and completely by spokespeople, first, and then followed by the public televote which is combined en masse, rather than country-by-country, and delivered to each finalist one-by-one.
Though, when defending a 100% televoting mechanism – thus delivering power back solely to the viewers – it’s important to note what’s sometimes remarked as the ‘dark years’ of Eurovision in the early 2000’s. Around this time, when the power was firmly and solely in the viewing public’s hands, the ‘Eastern Bloc’ began to really take hold and neighbourly voting became the biggest criticism, and turn off, for fans and broadcasters alike. During this time, many former Soviet nations won for the first time, including Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Serbia and Ukraine. Similarly, first-time wins occurred for countries to the further reaches of the Mediterranean such as Greece and Turkey. Aside from neighbourly voting, it was also the quality of songs which was open to criticism, but that’s totally open to opinion.
One very, very important thing to remember, also, is that what the jury scores and what the public scores are not the same performance. By this we mean the jury are watching and scoring the rehearsal show the night before each semi-final and final, and the public are watching and scoring the broadcast show on the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Maybe this is fairer as the acts get two different chances to appease and captivate two different audiences, but maybe this is also unfair as shouldn’t all the points be scored on the same performance?
There’s arguments for and against having solely televote, solely jury and indeed the current combination of combined 50:50 or any combination of jury and televote. But what remains clear is that every so often the jury and voting public are not in agreement, and sometimes in fact the act each individual group wants doesn’t actually win.
So, let’s see how different things would have been if for the last decade or so we had solely a public televote and forgot about juries –– how different would the winners have been?
Eurovision 2010, Oslo
Germany’s Lena won both the televote and the jury vote, with a massive 76 point lead over her next nearest rival –– Hadise for Turkey. Interestingly for second place, in the jury votes Belgium took that spot, whereas in the public vote Turkey got their No.2, both with similar points respectively. However, the juries scored Turkey higher than the public scored Belgium, and thus Turkey received a higher combined total to make it to second place overall.
Result: Same. Lena remains the winner
Eurovision 2011, Düsseldorf
In Düsseldorf we find our first split vote of the modern time. Even though Azerbaijan win the whole thing, they only won the televote. The public and the jury were split on their favourite. The juries scored Azerbaijan second, putting Raphael Gualazzi (returning Italy to the competition after a 13-year absence) into first place with a significant lead, however the public didn’t even factor Italy into its top ten of the year, which was the fatal move that meant Italy couldn’t have won.
Result: Same. Ell and Nikki remain winners
Eurovision 2012, Baku
Loreen captivated the juries in Euphoria, gaining over a 100-point lead from the next-nearest rival in the jury votes, whereas the public weren’t entirely convinced, though they did place her first. The Russian babushki were just ten points behind in second place. However when the votes were combined Sweden still retained a 100-point lead in any case, so Loreen was the clear and undisputed winner in 2012 with a massive margin.
Result: Same. Loreen remains the winner
Eurovision 2013, Malmö
Another clear winner, Emmelie de Forest won outright both the televote and jury vote in Malmö and so in any case the contest would have crossed the Oresund Strait to neighbouring Copenhagen. The issue was the second place act –– the juries chose Farid Mammadov for Azerbaijan whilst the public preferred Zlata Ognevich for Ukraine. In the combined total, Azerbaijan took second place, 20 points ahead of Ukraine.
Result: Same. Emmelie remains the winner
Eurovision 2014, Copenhagen
The public fell in love with Conchita Wurst, so much so the Austrian singer had an almost 90-point lead in the televote from the next nearest competitor, The Netherlands with The Common Linnets. The juries agreed, putting Austria in the top spot and pitting Sweden against the Netherlands with a point between them, the former emerging just on top in second place –– however when the public and televote were combined this flipped and gave The Netherlands second place with a 20-point lead on Sweden, making them third place.
Result: Same. Conchita remains the winner
Eurovision 2015, Vienna
Now, this is where it starts to get interesting… The juries lapped up Måns Zelmerlöw’s Heroes with its interactive digital projections and rousing, anthemic chorus, but the public weren’t so keen –– it didn’t come first, nor did it come second. Sweden finished third, with Russia’s Polina Gagarina ahead and ultimately the public wanted Italy’s operatic trio Il Volo to win. The jury didn’t think Il Volo were worthy of even a top five spot, they finished at no.6 in the jury vote. Ultimately, Sweden finished with over a 60-point lead on Russia in second place, when the votes were combined.
Result: Different. Il Volo becomes the winner
Eurovision 2016, Stockholm
Okay, thunder and lightning it’s getting exciting… Neither the jury nor the public wanted Ukraine to win, but Jamala’s 1944 received second place in both votes, thus scoring high enough points that when combined gave her the win with a 25-point lead. A 100% jury vote would have seen Dami Im claim victory for Australia on the country’s second-ever outing at Eurovision with a seriously decisive 110-point lead on Ukraine. A 100% televote would have seen Sergey Lazarev make it Russia’s third win with a smaller lead over Ukraine of around 40 points. Another interesting thing to note: though overall Poland came eighth, in a 100% televote scenario Michal Szpak would have come third.
Result: Different: Sergey Lazarev becomes the winner
Eurovision 2017, Kyiv
Decisiveness prevails once again, Salvador Sobral for Portugal storms to victory with the most amount of points ever achieved at Eurovision (758, unmatched to this day). In fact, both public and juries agreed on the top two placements: Portugal, first, and Bulgaria, second. The juries gave Portugal more than 100 points over Kristian Kostov whilst the public were more torn with Portugal edging just about a 40-point lead. Another interesting thing to note –– the public barely gave a single point to Australia, yet the juries awarded Isaiah Firebrace fourth place. One of the starkest examples of public and jury being at-odds with one another in the last decade. Remember: the juries and the public are not watching and scoring the same peformances…
Result: Same. Salvador remains the winner
Eurovision 2018, Lisbon
Back to split votes in Portugal, Netta topped the televote, so would remain the winner in this example but what’s interesting is the jury. Netta was a clear frontrunner from the get-go leading up to Lisbon, and was widely expected to captivate both televote and jury, but the jury awarded her third place. So, in a 100% jury situation, Netta would not have won. But who you think came ahead of Netta is not who actually did. If you thought Eleni Foureira for Cyprus beat her in the jury vote you’d be wrong –– Cyprus came fifth. It was actually Cesár Sampson for Austria who topped the jury vote, with Benjamin Ingrosso for Sweden a close second, then Netta for Israel third.
Though Fuego gave Toy chase in the televote, Israel had a 64-point lead by the public vote and as the juries gave Eleni just fifth place, it’s worth noting the juries are to blame for Fuego never getting enough support to properly contend even if it was a fan favourite. Also, like the previous year, major disparity on a particular example –– this time on Sweden; the juries gave Benjamin second place in their estimation, the public vote landed Benjamin in fourth-last. Complete extremes.
Result: Same. Netta remains the winner
Eurovision 2019, Tel Aviv
Very, very interesting. Like 2016 Stockholm there’s a big disparity here –– neither public nor juries actually voted enough for Duncan Laurence for The Netherlands to win. In one of the wildest disparities of recent times, the jury awarded Tamara Todevska for North Macedonia top spot and the public gave KEiiNO for Norway their No.1. The Netherlands finished second in the televote, just above Italy, and third in jury vote (the juries placed John Lundvik for Sweden just four points ahead of Duncan). What’s interesting is, like the previous year with Netta, Duncan Laurence was widely expected to win, in an almost done-deal scenario if the odds and the press were to be believed –– but when you look at the voting breakdown his lead was never obvious, and ultimately when both votes combined in the inevitable two-horse race between Italy and The Netherlands only 26 points stood between Duncan and Mahmood.
Even though Tamara Todevska and John Lundvik had the most obvious face cracks on the night on-camera, their vote shares weren’t as disparate as Malta or Czech Republic. The juries lapped these up and placed both within their top ten, however the public placed them within their bottom five of the 26 competing countries in the Grand Final.
Result: Different. KEiiNO become the winners
Eurovision 2020, Rotterdam — Cancelled
Eurovision 2021, Rotterdam
Well, well, well –– though Måneskin brought glam rock ’n’ roll to the fore and the Contest back to Italy, the juries were certainly not sold. Even though the band are insanely popular and have achieved stellar success, both online and in real life, the juries merely awarded Zitti e Buoni fourth place. The juries wanted a French song to win, as they placed three songs either fully or partly in French – Switzerland, France and Malta – ahead of Italy, in-that-order. If a 100% jury vote was carried, Gjon’s Tears would have won Eurovision 2021 for Switzerland.
The public did vote overwhelmingly for Måneskin to win, but actually Go_A for Ukraine were awarded second, with Barbara Pravi in third –– even though in the combined voting, France’s Pravi came second and Ukraine finished fifth. Delving further into the stats, the public and juries did not see eye-to-eye on Malta, the public landing Destiny in 14th place compared to the juries’ third. Similarly, the juries gave Victoria for Bulgaria sixth place, but in the public’s eyes she deserved 18th out of 26 competitors. Conversely, the public loved Finland and Lithuania but the juries were far harsher on them in their scoring, Finland 60% less votes with the juries compared to public and Lithuania (favourites the previous year, also with The Roop) over 66% less with the juries.
Result: Same. Måneskin remain winners
Eurovision 2022, Turin –– record-breaking televote support
Running far and above higher than their next-nearest rival in the bookmakers’ odds for almost the entirety of ‘selection season’ it was obvious that Ukraine was the likeliest candidate to win Eurovision 2022. Bolstered by public support following Russia’s illegal invasion of the country and managing to actually get to Turin to compete with a strong song meant that Ukraine became somewhat untouchable, reflected in their significant lead once the votes were counted with 631 points. 165 points separated them from their closest competition, United Kingdom with 466. That ocean of points difference was a number almost equivalent to the six lowest-scoring countries points combined.
However, if we delve deeper into the televoting-only something very interesting appears: Ukraine would have still outright won in a televote-only contest, in fact, they would have won with an even bigger mandate –– 200 points on the dot clear from their next nearest rival. But that next nearest rival was not United Kingdom, in fact they were only fifth-favoured by the voting public. It was Moldova who would have come second. Spain would have come third (as it did in the actual final) but Serbia would have leapt up to fourth place, ahead of Sam Ryder who would have just about gotten into the top five, pushing Sweden out by three points to sixth place. So even though many people believe that, Ukraine aside, Sam Ryder had the “best song” and effectively would have won had Ukraine been forced to withdraw, that certainly was not the general feeling among the viewing public, they preferred Moldova, Spain and Serbia significantly more than United Kingdom. Hypothesis alert: If Ukraine was unable to compete and had to pull out, would Moldova have won if Eurovision was a televote-only contest?
Now, where it gets very very interesting is that it was almost solely the juries who gave the UK the support it needed to challenge Ukraine. In fact, the juries would have given UK the win –– they placed Sam Ryder first with 283 points, and Ukraine fourth with almost a hundred less points. The juries also placed Sweden higher than Spain, so Sweden would have come second to the UK instead of fourth, where they actually ended up. For what it’s worth Portugal would have ended up in the top five, but the televote placed them 15th and in the actual final they finished ninth.
Though the public scores from across the viewership and voting public is now combined and delivered from one pot, if we look deeper into the massive scale of the public support for Ukraine it shows that Kalush Orchestra broke the record for the most 12 points ever: 28 individual douze points from the televoting public. Every single country, except themselves of course, awarded them some points –– and their lowest point was 7.
Result: Same. Kalush Orchestra remain winners
Let’s map that all out, for argument’s sake…
So, what does this tell us?
- Well, in 12 Grand Finals, the public and the jury agreed on their winner on five occasions (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017).
- Four times in 12 the televote winner went on the win the overall trophy (2011, 2018, 2021, 2022) though the juries didn’t agree.
- Only once in 11 finals has the jury winner went on to win the whole thing (2015) though the public didn’t agree.
- And on two occasions neither public nor jury’s top choices won, a third option received enough points to get victory (2016, 2019)
…and what if juries-only decided again?
What if only the juries chose, thus going back to the original format of Eurovision decision? Aside from the five years in which both the public and jury agreed – there within the jury’s choice won – only one other time (2015) did the juries’ preferred pick win.
If the juries had their pick, Raphael Gualazzi, Cesar Sampson, Tamara Todevska, Gjon’s Tears and Dami Im would now be within the Eurovision winners’ Hall of Fame (and replacing Netta, Duncan Laurence, Måneskin, Ell and Nikki and Jamala in the process…)