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Televoting, telephone voting or phone voting is a method of decision making and opinion polling conducted by telephone. Televoting can also extend to voting by SMS text message via a mobile cell phone.
Broadcast contest televoting
Televoting involves broadcasters providing an audience with different telephone numbers associated with contestants participating; the outcome is decided by the number of calls to each line. Music contests such as the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as for World Idol, American Idol, and similar contests use this method. From 1997, the European Broadcasting Union, organiser of the Eurovision Song Contest, introduced telephonic and SMS voting for competing entries in place of national juries. This allowed the voice of the television audience to become crucial to choose the winning song. Reality television contests around the world such as Big Brother can use televoting to choose a winner or to eliminate a contestant from the contest.
Disadvantages of televoting for Eurovision
Televoting has strengthened the phenomenon of neighbourly voting, whereby neighbouring countries would vote for each other. This could be observed earlier in the competition, but has now practically become a rule. It is particularly evident in the voting patterns of Scandinavian, Baltic, Balkan, and CIS countries; Andorra would vote for Spain, Greece for Cyprus, Turkey for Azerbaijan, Romania for Moldova and vice versa.
It has also been observed that immigrants in a given country will tend to bestow high points on their countries of origin. For instance Germany, The Netherlands, France and Belgium tend to vote massively for Armenia and Turkey, while the immigrants of France also secure high points for Portugal and Israel, and in recent years Lithuanian nationals living in Ireland have secured top votes for their home country. The same goes in a slightly lesser degree for ex-Yugoslav immigrants in certain countries, including Scandinavia, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland, and for Russian immigrants in the three Baltic states and other ex-Soviet countries. United Kingdom tend to vote for Ireland (and latterly, additionally, Greece and Turkey).
Because of this neighbourly voting, a 50% mixture of jury and televoting results was introduced in 2009. In 2007, no western nations were in the top half but in 2009 long-time underachievers UK and France gained their best results in 7 years.
Deliberative democracy televoting
A televote is initiated by random sampling of a population by means of random digit dialling. Those contacted are requested to volunteer to receive written background briefing materials regarding a particular issue, that have been prepared by a panel of representatives of different stakeholder groups affected by that issue, and incorporating various views or perspectives. Volunteers are requested to discuss the issue amongst their families and friends until they have reached a decision. At the conclusion of this period they are polled again by telephone in order to determine their views.
Advantages of televoting
Common to other deliberative democratic techniques, it also tends to produce more reasoned decisions than "raw" opinion polling, because participants are exposed to various perspectives other than their own in the briefing materials that they receive.
Disadvantages of televoting
Televoting may be less effective than other methods of democratic deliberation in which a trained moderator or facilitator is available in person to ensure that groups seriously deliberate on the issue before them.
- Carson, L: "Innovative consultation processes and the changing role of activism", Third Sector Review, 7(1):7, 2001.
- Slaton, C D. (1992), Televote: Expanding Citizen Participation in the Quantum Age, Oxford: Praeger.