The Eurovision Song Contest has declared major alterations to the voting process for next year’s contest hosted by Liverpool.
Juries will not participate in the voting process during the semi-finals after the discovery of unusual discrepancies in voting. All six juries traded votes at this year’s contest in Turin, Italy, an action that marred this year’s competition.
The organizers of the Eurovision song contest have therefore extended voting to its global audience for the first time in the competition’s history and reduced the role of professional juries.
The scores of participants will now be combined with the results of a public vote to determine the overall winner under the new system.
Global audience to vote for Eurovision song of the year
On Tuesday, November 22nd, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced that in the most drastic rule changes in its 67-year history, the winning song will be picked by viewers across the world in combination with a jury of music professionals.
Qualifying countries will only be determined by the votes of viewers, and juries will not be involved in how countries are selected for the grand finale.
The changes, which have been approved by the contest’s reference group, come after “irregular voting patterns” were identified in national jury votes from six countries.
The system, which has been in place since 2009, is also allowing countries that are not competing in the contest to cast votes for the first time.
Juries still have a say in grand finale of Eurovision Song Contest
Professional juries will still have their say in the finals when ranking all twenty-six tracks. Both online votes and jury scores will determine the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023.
The EBU, which organizes the contest, said that they had removed the irregular jury votes from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and San Marino.
Sam Ryder from the UK took second place this year. In first came the Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine, with their song “Stefania,” a folk-rap ensemble they dedicated to all the mothers of the country. However, Ukraine will be unable to host next year’s event due to Russia’s invasion.
Russia was expelled from the event, and its suspension will continue in 2023. For that reason, Liverpool will host next year’s event instead on behalf of Ukraine.
Contested jury votes disregarded in contest
The jury votes that were disregarded were substituted with an aggregate score based on results of other countries with similar voting records.
Professional juries—and professional songwriters and music industry figures—have served as judges since at least the second Eurovision Song Contest in 1957. The voting system for the first contest was never disclosed.
Oftentimes, in the past, the Eurovision audience has also voted against juries. A point in case is, this year, Ukraine scored 439 points, profusely winning the online vote at the final. Yet, in the end, it came fourth in the jury vote with 192 points.
Sam Ryder, who was the jury members’ favorite act, scored 283 points but came in fifth with viewers at home.
EBU suspected of engaging in irregular voting
It is still unclear why the change was made. Nevertheless, speculations suggest it has been made to reassure the public, whose favorites were dismissed by juries in the last contest.
Apparently, the vote rigging was played down by the EBU when it transpired in May. The organization made the following statement:
The EBU takes any suspected attempts to manipulate the voting at the Eurovision Song Contest extremely seriously and has the right to remove such votes in accordance with the official voting instructions, irrespective of whether or not such votes are likely to influence the results and/or outcome of the voting.
The video below provides additional details about the changes made in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Voters will vote via SMS, phone, or Eurovision Song Contest app
Rest assured, there will not be voter fraud or IP spoofing, as all online voters will need a valid credit card or debit card to cast their televote.
Viewers in all participating and non-participating countries will also still be able to vote by SMS, phone, or through the Eurovision Song Contest app.
Only thirty-seven countries will participate in next year’s contest with Montenegro and North Macedonia pulling out due to the cost of participating.
In 2021, Croatia’s Albina placed in the top ten with both juries and the public, but the total sum threw “Tick-Tock” out of a position in the finale.
Former producer of the contest says changes are fair to all
Sietse Bakker, a Dutch member of the reference group and former producer of the event, revealed that the changes were made to guarantee equity in the future.
He wrote on Twitter saying, “Following the unprecedented voting irregularities we saw this year, we looked at ways to protect the integrity of the competition.”
“The problem occurred in the semi-finals,” he said, “and this was the best way to end it. Also, [the] difference of who qualifies in public [versus] public+jury vote is minimal.”
Bakker believes people’s vote in contest is immeasurable
Bakker added, “I’ve been around in the Eurovision community for over 20 years and I’ve seen uproar and backlash about changes to the format over and over again.”
“And look where the contest stands now; stronger than ever,” said Bakker.
Additionally, defending the new system against claims that audience votes would produce unfair results, Bakker tweeted, “It is fair, just not objective.”
“No measure is [objective] in a contest that is ultimately judged by people’s personal taste and, in case of the juries, professional evaluation of artistic elements,” Bakker explained.
TV presenter says fans of the contest will be relieved to vote
Nicki Chapman, a TV presenter who served on the UK jury twice, was on board with the change, insisting that fans often know more than professionals.
“There’ll be lots of people breathing a sigh of relief, because real Eurovision fans are online months and months in advance,” Chapman said.
“They know every single song, and they’ll have their favorites,” she asserted. “So when Ireland gets knocked out, for example, so many people are disappointed.”
Chapman explained that “this change gives everybody the chance to put their favorite through and, when it comes to the finale, the juries will have 50 [percent] of the votes.”
EBU revealed all votes of the contest will be combined
The EBU revealed that all online votes from the “rest of the world” will be tallied and converted to points that will have the same weight as one participating country in both of the semi-finals and the grand finale.”
In other words, an extra set of douze points is available.
Chapman, who worked with David Bowie, the Spice Girls, and Amy Winehouse before moving into television, said, “I love the idea it’s going to go global.”
“I wonder whether, say an artist such as Adele,” said Chapman, “might suddenly think, ‘Actually, I want to be part of this. This goes out to a global audience, I want to represent the UK’. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
Everyone can vote for contest from wherever you are
Martin Österdahl, the Eurovision Song Contest’s Executive Supervisor, said the rule changes were made to reflect the globalization of an event that drew a global TV audience of 160 million.
“Throughout its 67-year history the Eurovision Song Contest has constantly evolved to remain relevant and exciting,” Österdahl said.
He added that “these changes acknowledge the immense popularity of the show by giving more power to the audience of the world’s largest live music event.”
“In 2023 only Eurovision Song Contest viewers will decide which countries make it to the Grand Final…reflecting the global impact of the event,” he explained.
Everyone watching the show, wherever they live in the world, can cast their votes for their favorite songs.
Österdahl says songs can be assessed on the broadest criteria
Österdahl suggested the changes would mean the winner was selected more on musical merit than parochial European concerns.
“By also involving juries of music professionals in deciding the final result, all the songs in the grand finale can be assessed on the broadest possible criteria,” Österdahl said.
Introducing global voting is a bigger change than the controversial decision in 2015 that now allows Australia to enter the competition.
It is likely to fuel speculation that more countries from around the world will be permitted to enter the competition in the future.
Österdahl says traveling around Europe can be maintained
Österdahl said, “We can also maintain the tradition of [traveling] around Europe and Australia to collect points and ensure a thrilling voting sequence with the winner only revealed at the very end of the show.”
“Those watching in the rest of the world will be able to vote via a secure online platform using a credit card from their country,” he said.
According to Österdahl, people’s votes, once added together will then “be converted into points that will have the same weight as one participating country in both of the semi-finals and the grand finale.”