What part of ‘Eurovision’ don’t you understand?

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Last night’s Eurovision Song Contest was the first I’d sat all the way through in years. Cheesy pop isn’t my thing, ironically detached or not. What I saw remained not my thing, but it wasn’t the sort of frothy nonsense that exists in the British public’s imagination either. This is something that appears to upset Tim Moore.

The tone of his article is quite obnoxious. There are no fixed rules about what Eurovision is or is not and there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that many for many Europeans the joke is over. Lordi won last year because of a coalition between the Baltic states, people who wanted a wholly ‘inappropriate’ song to win and genuine rock fans. I was bored a few months ago and decided to see how the result would have changed if each country’s vote was weighted by population. Lordi still won hands down. Watching the voting last night it was clear that Serbia won because of more than the blatant ‘bloc voting’ of neighbouring Balkan states giving them top marks – they won because pretty much every single country gave them at least 1 point. They took it seriously and won. We treated it like a joke and were wiped out. It’s as simple as that.

Complaining that Eurovision is no longer about cheesy pop is to attempt to impose a definition of popular culture on the rest of Europe that they don’t share. Tim Moore’s complaint appears to rest on the fact that he doesn’t like power ballads and rock. Such music doesn’t exactly rock my world either, but if Eurovision is evolving into something new and decidedly less western, then we just need to deal with it. You never know, it might even mean that the British submit a half decent entry for once.

6 thoughts on “What part of ‘Eurovision’ don’t you understand?

  1. Actually, you are wrong. There is a growing body of evidence, and I point to some statistical evidence on my own blog posting yesterday about Eurovision bloc voting. If you look at the Blovc and the former Soviet Union bloc, when combined with the Baltic bloc and the Scandinavian bloc, there is no chance at all for a non Eastern European country to win.

    Our song was awful, yes, dreadful. However, the winning song was turgid and painful and will not live long in anyone’s memory. When the 8, 10 and 12 points were being given so openly to the coutry’s neighbours, it showed what an utter joke it was. We should do as the Italians have done and withdrawn from Eurovision. People might argue that “its a bit of fun”, but it costs the BBC millions as one of the big 4 contributors. Why can’t these millions be spent on quality TV programmes and not on the trash served up last night.

  2. There’s an argument that we suffer from the protectionism of not having to compete in the semi-finals. This leads us to take it even less seriously and not bother entering good songs.

    Not that I really care, the only reason to watch it is Terry Wogan’s commentry (although it was good to see Apocalyptica during the interval).

    There is undoubtedly block voting, I think there has been for a long time. (its interesting to see actually – I notice Estonia didn’t make the finals – the ex-Soviet bloc voting against them? Though they gave Russia quite high marks which was interesting). You are correct that however that without the votes from other countries Serbia would not have won. Perhaps it tilts the vote in favour of them, but it doesn’t guarantee a win.

    Who really cares anyway? (apart from the waste of license fee money) its only a bit of supid fun.

  3. Nich,

    I’m not going to waste much more time on this, but just from glancing at the paper you quote, it doesn’t support your argument that any non Eastern European country has “no chance” of winning. It states that centrally placed countries have “a higher probability of being future winners”. And since when were the Scandinavian countries regarded as Eastern Europe?

    A quick glance at this year’s results shows that the following countries gave 8, 10 or 12 points to Serbia. The ones in bold are what you might term Eastern bloc:

    Austria – 12
    Bosnia-Herzegovina – 12
    Croatia – 12
    Czech Republic – 8
    Finland – 12
    FYROM – 12
    Germany – 8
    Hungary – 12
    Malta – 8
    Montenegro – 12
    Norway – 10
    Poland – 8
    Slovenia – 12
    Sweden – 10
    Switzerland – 12
    Netherlands – 8

    168 out of their 268 points game from these big rewards. Of that, almost half – 80 points – came from the non-Eastern bloc. That leaves less than a third of their final tally coming from big rewarding Eastern bloc countries. A big help, yes, but not enough by itself to win them the contest.

    Just 5 countries didn’t give Serbia a single point, not including themselves. The Ukraine (another Eastern European country) did even better with only Albania not giving them a single point. Russia similarly had just 5 (presumably non-gas using) countries who didn’t give them points. You might not like their songs very much, but clearly the vast majority of Europe did.

    Personally? Speaking as a total geek, I would prefer it if the votes were somehow related to the size of the country. Not directly, 1:1 as the population differences can be vast, but there should be some kind of degressive system (I’ve experimented by looking at the square root of each population). However, when I worked out who would have won last year using such a system, Finland still came out on top. I don’t need to put the 2007 results through the computer to figure out that Serbia would similarly have won this year however you weight population size. There is something much more complicated going on here, no matter how much you insist otherwise.

    Finally, fashions also change. I’m not surprised the Balkan countries vote for each other due to their recent past of butchering each other. In years to come, I’m sure such political voting will alleviate along with tensions. That is what bringing these countries into Europe is all about. At the silly end, we have the Eurovision song contest, but it is a part of European integration nonetheless.

  4. Tristan,

    Leaving aside what would be a GOOD use of license fee payers’ money to one side, I question this is much of a waste. It’s a national obsession, regardless of what we on this blog might think, and I’m sure ITV would happily take it on if the BBC were to drop it (which politically I doubt they could do for the forseeable future – imagine the Sun reaction). And although we pay a large share of the costs, I suspect it is pretty reasonable when you consider how much it would cost to hold a festival of that size in just a single country. I can think of much worse things to scrap first.

  5. The only contribution I will make is that according to this publication, there is apparently some argument to be made about the Baltic states engaging in political voting amongst each other…

    http://www.math.utwente.nl/publications/2006/1794.pdf

    ..while this one suggests that perhaps we don’t seem to receive much overgiving from any country other than Hungary (page 11). Perhaps we need to start making more ‘friends’ in Europe – or secure Budapest’s presence each year?!

    http://www.wcfia.harvard.edu/seminars/pegroup/CleridesStengos2006.pdf

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