Editorials & OpinionEurovisionVienna 2015

What do the juries want?

It is the time of year where every Eurovision fan makes themselves jury and judge of the contest. There’s a poll, ranking video or scoring chart around every anticipatory corner.
But spare a thought for those who have been given the responsibility for 50% of their nation’s vote. No, not government officials or SIM card distributors, but five men and women that comprise each national jury.
By the time Europe sits down to watch each of the shows, national juries have already had the chance to rank the songs and therefore scrap the winning chances of a number of songs and can significantly boost others. Today’s announcement of the jury members is of no interest beyond the fan community, but it will have a impact on the results seen by the millions of casual fans and viewers casting their televotes later this month.
How the juries come to their ranking is supposedly by considering the criteria below, but the public conversation between the new kids in the class- Australia’s jurors – indicates the wealth of wriggle room there is within these criteria.
The jurors are told to look out for:

  • vocal capacity

  • the performance on stage

  • the composition and originality of the song

  • the overall impression by the act

There is no way to formalise or regulate this combination of criteria, so jurors with very different mindsets will exist. Aussie juror Richard Wilkins is quoted as saying:

Eurovision is a spectacle, there’s no two ways about that. But it’s about the song, it’s the Eurovision Song Contest after all … The song has to be right. I’ve got pretty good ears so I like listening to people who are in tune.”

Conversely, his fellow jury member Jake Stone will be asking of the entrants:

What is their social relevance? What barriers has someone had to push through to get that far? I can’t help but listen to the quality of the song, but there’s also the performance itself.  Is it socially meaningful? Is it funny?”

As a 2003 UK back-up juror in the dark days of 100% televoting I found myself with a similar mindset to Richard, and having conversations with those of a similar mindset to Jake. Perhaps a jury should include a blend of these interests, but is a jury’s purpose not to emphasise musical considerations so that the emotional and “social relevance” of an act can be left to the emotional* voting wider society at home?
*jovial, tipsy, inattentive, biased, whimsical, cynical, enthusiastic…

The full rules and regulations for jury composition and decision are shown below (from eurovision.tv) and are unchanged from 2014.

  • The jury voting is alwas [sic] monitored by an independent notary in each country;
  • The EBU’s voting observer PwC has the right to send an additional independent observer to the jury session;
  • The jury consists of a variety of members in terms of age, gender, and background;
  • All jury members must be citizens of the country they are representing;
  • None of the jury members must be connected to any of the participating songs/artists in such a way that they cannot vote independently. The participating broadcasters must send a letter of compliance with the voting instructions together with signed declarations by each jury member stating that they will vote independently;
  • The names of the jury members must be revealed by the relevant participating broadcasters during the Final;
  • Each jury member of each national jury must rank all songs in the show;
  • The combined rank of each country’s jury members determines the jury result of that particular country;
  • By judging each song each jury member will focus on the vocal capacity of the artist(s), the performance on stage, the composition and originality of the song, and the overall impression by the act.
  • To increase diversity, music industry professionals can only take a seat in a national jury if they have not been in the jury during one of the previous two editions of the contest.

Jury member selection criteria
All jury members are music professionals. They are being asked to judge:

  • vocal capacity
  • the performance on stage
  • the composition and originality of the song
  • the overall impression by the act

The EBU looks into each jury member together with Digame and PwC, to assure they meet the requirements to take seat in a national jury.
The following criteria is [sic] applied in the selection of the jury members:

  • Members shall not have been part of a National Jury the preceding two years.
  • Members of the National Juries must be music industry professionals
  • There shall be a balance among the members of each National Jury to ensure sufficient representativeness in terms of gender, age and background.
  • All members of the National Juries shall be citizens of the country they represent.
  • No member of a National Jury shall be connected in any way with any of the participating songs entered and/or artists performing in the Eurovision Song Contest in such a way that they cannot vote in complete independence and impartiality.
  • Judges signed a declaration stating they will vote independently.
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