Every year eyebrows are raised and ‘OMFG’s muttered at certain Eurovision results which appear to defy logical analysis. More often than not, these can be traced back to the unpredictability of the jury vote – while throwing up a few surprises each year the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and geographical/cultural ties between nations ensures that televote results will largely be consistent from year to year in terms of the songs which receive support, and those that don’t.
On first glance the jury results don’t appear to follow any such conventions, and might cause your average punter to throw his hands in the air and declare the sets of 5 ‘experts’ to be deaf/blind/racist* (delete as applicable.) However, it’s making sense of this mire of unpredictability that holds the key to the greatest potential Eurovision profits.
This week ESCbet will analyse the results of the last 3 years contests and attempt to draw some vaguely reliable pointers for use this year – just remember to blame those deaf/blind/racist* (delete as applicable) juries rather than us if they send you down the wrong path for 2012…
ESC Juries – the anti-diaspora vote?
When juries were reintroduced in 2009, one of the perceived benefits was that their presence would dilute the effect of the diaspora vote. The logic is that with juries voting solely on musical merit then their 50% contribution to the final results reduces the impact of the televote, some of which is clearly influenced by those who vote simply based on geographical/nationalistic ties.
This aim should be realized by the juries simply voting based on musical merit – however, is there evidence that juries have taken this aim to heart and attempted to level the playing field further by penalizing those countries perceived to have an initial advantage?
Let’s take a look.
Starting out with a few simplistic case studies on those that usually enjoy some degree of an advantage, either through diaspora or geography (although the two typically overlap to a certain extent.)
Russia – in 2011 scored highly amongst the televoters (4th in the Semi, 7th in the final) but very poorly amongst the juries (16th and 25th). Their song was dated and poorly performed, so would not be considered jury friendly. In 2010 they placed 4th(Semi) and 11th(final) with televoters, and 14th and 15th with juries – with a song that could probably be considered neither televote nor jury friendly.
Turkey – In 2011 they scored evenly between televoters and juries, placing 10th and 12th respectively in the semi final, which they failed to qualify from. In a successful 2010, they placed 2nd with both in the semi final, and 2nd/9th in the final. As reasonably commercial rock numbers, both songs perhaps had similar jury and televoter appeal.
Bosnia – In 2011, placed 2nd/11th(semi) and 6th/11th(final). Dino Merlin’s catchy ‘Love in Rewind’ was believed to hold a certain amount of jury appeal, and as a result the semi final placing comes as a bit of a surprise. In 2010, their soft rock number placed 15th/11th, and 16th/14th in the semi and final respectively.
For the sake of limiting this article to less than 50,000 words, I’ll keep the analysis at a high level. It’s patently obvious that these countries fare better with televoters than juries, but of course that’s to be expected given that the diaspora vote ‘skews’ the televote result. Extrapolating this from the data in order to detect any sort of bias from the juries is less straightforward, but there are suggestions that there is a further correction at play and looking at the other side of the coin reveals a little more.
Italy and Austria returned to the contest in 2011, and both fared significantly better with the juries than with the televoters, with Italy the runaway winners of the jury vote. Again, these were jury friendly songs, but was Italy really such an obvious jury favourite ahead of other polished, commercial, and reasonably performed entries such as Denmark, Slovenia etc? Or was a country with few allies welcomed back into the ESC fold with a slap on the back and an amplified jury vote?
There is merit in some kind of like for like comparison. I’ll take the dated, poorly performed dance numbers of Hungary and Russia from 2011 for this (you could argue that if Hungary’s was dated then Russia’s entry was ancient…). As above, Russia showed a huge difference between their televote and jury performance as they often do, but this was even more marked than ever. If this was solely down to the type of song, then we could expect Hungary to show a similar(if less dramatic) set of results. However, Hungary drew reasonably similar levels of support from televoters/jury in the semi (8th/10th) and final (17th/21st). Hungary’s return to ESC could also have played a part in this result, as with Austria/Italy.
As with most jury data, there are countries which buck these trends, but overall there does appear to be some sort of ‘correction’ at work in the jury votes. This is most obvious in countries that are well known to require a little help – such as Switzerland bucking their qualification hoodoo, and Italy and Austria on their return. Those known to require little assistance, such as Eurovision big hitters Russia, Turkey, Sweden, Bosnia etc are rarely given it. Perhaps ‘penalize’ is not the right word, but they will seldom worry the top 10 of the jury vote, even when merited.
As Lithuania proved in semis in 2011, and as Sweden proved in the semis in 2010 – what this means is that there are fewer foregone conclusions in terms or qualification. If the country in question is very well known to either require (or not) a little extra help, then the long/short odds on offer merit more than a second look this year.
And for those countries that fall in the middle? Well, you can probably disregard all of the above and wait for the next article where I won’t so deliberately avoid song suitability/performance.