Editorials & OpinionEurovision

Opinion: It’s time to abolish the jury vote for Eurovision semi-finals

In Turin, the flaws of giving jurors and the public equal weighting were laid bare. It's now time to make some changes.

Disclaimer: I started this draft before the voting breakdown was even released, because I just knew that there had been some shenanigans with the jurors for the semi-finals. This was a hunch that was shared by many fans (well, accounts on Eurovision Twitter), and lo and behold, we were right.

Let me be clear, this article isn’t intending to discredit or invalidate the talent of any artist from the 2022 contest, nor is it intending to inflate the performances of semi-finalists that fell short of expectations. However, it is simply seeking to unpack the egregiousness of how a handful of people can prevent songs from appearing in front of hundreds of millions of people over songs that fail to gain even moderate public support.

Especially with the revelation that, for the first time in Eurovision history, a semi-finalist had achieved the rare feat of getting zero points from the public and yet qualified for the Grand Final solely on jury points…I figured that now is truly the time we revisit the role of jurors at the contest.

Sloppiness and stupidity

I could write a whole separate article about the absolute MESS of the six disgraced juries from semi-final two, so, although relevant, this will not be the focus of this particular article. However, it’s worth highlighting this as a case study that jury votes are corruptible in a way that an audited televote isn’t.

Even though the alleged vote-swapping was identified and removed, there have long been murmurings of…shady dealings between jurors for many years now. As someone who takes the contest rather seriously (clearly), I hate to think of how many quality entries by hard working artists and teams have slipped through the net due to certain countries getting an extra…boost by the jury vote. We can never know the full extent of this.

Although not necessarily rigging, the vulnerability of the current system to downright incompetence was laid bare back in 2019. As reported by wiwibloggs, jurors from both Sweden and Russia clearly ranked their votes in the wrong order – which, in one of the closest semi-finals ever, very likely cost Lithuania their qualification. In the very same year, we ended up getting an incorrect scoreboard in the Grand Final, due to Belarus’ simulated votes being calculated incorrectly.

All this goes to say that jury voting is prone to error in a way that can impact the credibility of the results of the contest.

The ‘murdered by the juries’ issue

This is hardly a new phenomenon, over the years there have been some very wild and very frustrating discrepancies between the juries and televoters in the semi-finals. Particularly notorious examples of where clear televote qualifiers were tanked by jurors include: 

  • 🇫🇮 2010: “Työlki ellää” (6th with the public, 15th with the juries)
  • 🇲🇪 2013: “Igranka” (4th with the public, 14th with the juries)
  • 🇵🇹 2014: “Quero ser tua” (7th with the public, 16th with juries)
  • 🇪🇪 2017: “Verona” (6th with the public, 17th with juries)
  • 🇩🇰 2021: “ Øve os på hinanden” (7th with public, 15th with juries)

The list above does not include the many, many other entries that have finished 8-10th with the televote, only to be knocked out by the jury vote. Although jurors and televoters agreed more in 2022 compared to previous years, Albania’s Ronela Hajati and Cyprus’ Andromache joined the aforementioned list, both placing 9th in their respective semi-finals’ televotes, but not qualifying due to insufficient jury points.

Quality control?

There is an argument to be made that the juries exist for ‘quality control’, but I have two major issues with this concept. Firstly, define ‘quality’? I would argue that the involvement of juries in the semi-finals this year actually resulted in a lower quality Grand Final line-up, as best exemplified by the 13th-18th section of the running order, which suffered from a lack of tempo diversity. We also saw three very sonically similar entries progress from the second semi-final – “River”, “Fade To Black” and “Not The Same” – which compromised the genre diversity of the Grand Final. 

I still very much believe in the role of juries in the Grand Final, not just because I love the tradition of the iconic vote reveal, but because juries have often rewarded excellent entries in recent years (“Tout l’univers”, “Proud”, “Nobody But You”, “Sound of Silence”, etc.) Further, the lack of juries in 2008 led to one of the poorest vocal performances to have ever won the contest. For this reason, I can accept the presence of juries for the Grand Final. 

However, I don’t think the quality control argument stands in the case of the semi-finals, because quite frankly, it should be up to the people what goes through to the final anyway. It’s patronising to assume that viewers cannot be trusted to decide the songs that are worthy to appear in the Grand Final. This is especially true when there is generally a level of consensus on 7-8 songs in most semi-finals – or nine, as the case was this year.

Killing the flow

You may be reading this thinking ‘just say you hate male ballads and go’, but hear me out. Having a bunch of songs with little televote appeal in the Grand Final is…just not very good for the contest. If the televote are feeling the more uptempo songs, we end up with a final running order similar to 2018, where we have disproportionately more uptempo party songs and two battling it out for the win. This makes for a final conducive with the ‘party’ atmosphere Eurovision is loved for, but also a landscape where introspective songs can shine. If the reverse happens, we end up with a slower final that is less engaging (like the second half of the 2022 final), and entries like “Die Together” and “River” end up in slots that don’t service them. 

Even though both “Sekret” and “Ela” had major flaws in their live presentations, you cannot deny that a) there have been objectively worse performances that have qualified to the final in recent years and b) both songs would have livened up the second half of the show considerably. The fact that show producers had to use “Miss You” and “Með hækkandi sól” as buffers either side of “Die Together” exemplifies how the running order was crying out for some tempo. The less said about how Europe failed Brooke Scullion the better (don’t get me started).

Also, not for nothing, the bottom three in the televote in the Grand Final this year ended up being Azerbaijan, Australia and Switzerland – who got a measly five televote points between them. Clearly the public were not feeling these songs, and they didn’t vote them in to begin with. Above all, their respective floppage ended up causing a moment of embarrassment for the artists, which could have easily been avoided by the slightly more humane voting reveal in the semis.

So what now?

The Eurovision Song Contest has been going from strength to strength over the last few years, almost 70 years in. It has achieved this longevity through innovation and pivoting where necessary in order to modernise (removing the orchestra and language rule, introducing the televote, introducing semi-finals, voting system changes, etc.) This year has evidenced why the next pivot ought to be giving its millions of viewers more sway over 200-odd jurors. 

How could this be achieved in a sensible way? There are two options. The first is to do away with the jury vote for the semi-finals all together, and just let the public decide the qualifiers, similar to the 2008-2009 system, without the jury save (sorry Charlotte). The second is to give the public more weighting than the jury vote (45:55, 40:60, or more), basically, think Selecția Națională, but the exact opposite. 

I doubt the EBU or [next host broadcaster] are reading this (hello if you are!), but if the 2008 result was enough impetus for format reform, then so should the 2022 results. 

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  1. I disagree. The reality is that if we don\’t have the juries to balance out the vote we\’ll end up with 40 songs all attempting to be the instant hit. Rather than 13-18 suffering \”from a lack of tempo diversity\” we\’re far more likely to have 1-25 suffering from the same problem.

    Actually I think the producers were to blame for the lack of tempo diversity. I think they could have give us a better running order for the second half even with the selection they had. Azerbaijan could have swapped placed with Germany, Moldova could have been put in between Belgium and Greece and Serbia should have been moved in front of Poland. That would have given a little more change in tempo between the songs. There are other options even beyond that. Estonia could have been moved from the closing slot although I get that they wanted to end the presentation with something upbeat. If the EBU are really concerned then perhaps they can adjust the way the running order is decided by having 4 wildcard selections where a song is not drawn in either half but left to the organisers to decide when they are putting the running order together. That might offer some extra flexibility.

    \”Even though both “Sekret” and “Ela” had major flaws in their live presentations, you cannot deny that a) there have been objectively worse performances that have qualified to the final in recent years and b) both songs would have livened up the second half of the show considerably.\”
    You said it yourself – both of these songs had major flaws in their presentations. The first was a shoutfest with damn all content and the second had an off-key performance. Why should these songs get reward simply because they\’re upbeat? I\’m sorry but that\’s not a good enough reason.

    No system is perfect but I think removing the juries from the semi-finals will not help improve the quality of the final.

  2. Agree with Jim, disagree with the author. Sekret and Ela were both weak packages that simply didn\’t deserve to be in the final. Why change the points system when there\’s really no problem on the first place. Sorry but 2 mediocre songs performed terribly not qualifying is certainly no reason to change anything.

  3. JimW said it all – The producers are to blame for the lack of tempo diversity. They didn\’t need to put so many ballads back-to-back in the final. But I also seem to remember that the producers were going more for the lightning/production of each entry rather than the tempo of the song (it honestly felt like Sanremo where you can have 4 male ballads right after the other – however in Sanremo the spacing between songs would had been much longer).

    Anyways, certainly the EBU brought back the jury because televoting alone was destroying the credibility of the contest. I remember people complaining how \”it was all East\” (mind you at that time Western European countries were mostly relying on joke entries – however no-one can deny that there was/and still is a lot of neighbour/diaspora televoting) The period between 2000-2008 gave us many questionable results, the jury was definitely needed.

  4. In my opinion, it is time to abolish the televotign rather than the juries. Especially after this years total result.
    The list of clear jury qualifiers that were \”tanked\” by televoting exists too you know. But there is simply more control over jury votes than over televotes.

  5. Did we forget about the neighbour voting? That was the reason to introduce the jury more than a decade ago. The jury is needed so the broadcasters don\’t send only televote friendly entries. About the examples the author uses, i can fell sorry about ingranka cause it was top five in televotes. But both Ronela and Andromache had serious issues in their performances. The judges are suposed to bring balance to the results are necessary in my opinion

  6. Like others I absolutely disagree. Juries must stay: the issue is how national juries work and how the EBU can make it better, that\’s all. Over the past years we have seen significant issues with jury votes which culiminated with the catastrophy with 6 countries making a deal to support each other. That is a serious issue and the EBU must find a way to fight this.

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