30 May, 2015

Resolution of the Threat

About a week ago, I threatened a post on the gaming mechanisms inherent within the Eurovision Song Contest. Now it's time to make good on that threat.

Those who were worried about spoilers should have heard the news of Sweden's win by now, those who don't care about the contest won't be bothered about who won.

This year the announcers made reference to a new algorithm, his is interesting, but we'll get to that shortly. To a new viewer this algorithm made no real difference, because they had nothing to compare it to. To a new viewer the whole voting procedure is strange, it's built from an attempt to be unbiased, but is never-the-less incredibly biased and political.

Countries vote for their top ten performances, with the top three allocations stepping up by 2. Basically, what I'm trying to say here is...

10th place = 1 pt
9th place = 2 pts
8th place = 3 pts
7th place = 4 pts
6th place = 5 pts
5th place = 6 pts
4th place = 7 pts
3rd place = 8 pts
2nd place = 10 pts
1st place = 12 pts

Countries may vote for any other country but not themselves. This means that blocs of countries (eg. The Scandinavian Bloc, The Balkan Bloc, The Former Communist Bloc) tend to keep their votes allocated to other members of their allied associates. Cyprus always gives it's 12 points to Greece (but strangely, the reverse has almost never happened).

In the first year I watched it, at the end of the show every participating country was visited one by one and the points were tallied up over the course of about two hours (longer than it took to watch the performances). After missing it a few years, the next time I watched it was the first time the show was broken into 3 parts, these being two semi-finals and a grand final. A few countries were automatically granted entry into the grand final (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and the winner pf the previous year). The scoring was quicker, but this added a new political element to the mix. I think in the decade since this system was introduced, one of the perpetual countries has only won once (Germany a few years back), and the same country never wins it twice in a row. It's these last details that make me think there might be some kind of rigging in the background of the votes.

Historically, votes were made by a jury of industry experts from each country, but in the late 90s this moved to a telephone vote system to be more interactive and democratic. When Lordi won in 2006, there was said to be an organised underground swarm of votes from metal heads in numerous countries with the attempt to rig the outcome. Needless to say, it worked. It might also be noted that this year, each countries bottom seven point scorers were automatically tabulated, and only the 8, 10, and 12 point votes were announced. Lordi earned the highest ever number of points in the contest, and after this year it was decided that half of the votes would be determined by the popular telephone method, with half allocated by the expert jury.

So many rules and changes to rules just to make things "fair".

I cannot prove it, but I suspect that many juries are coached on where to place their votes based on a country's financial viability to hold the contest and general political stability. Similarly, I would have expected outrage from many European countries if Australia had actually won this year (so I imagine the juries were coached not to send their points our way).

Numerous papers and theses have been written about Eurovision, so I'll leave my little post here. If you want to chat more about it, I'd be happy to do so...just leave some comments below.


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