Voting at the Eurovision Song Contest
There have been many varied voting systems at the Eurovision Song Contest. Currently, the winner of the Contest is selected by means of a positional voting system. Each country ranks all the entries and assigns twelve points to their favourite entry, ten points to their second favourite entry, and eight down to one point to their third to tenth favourites. Countries are not allowed to vote for themselves.
The current method for ranking entries, first used in the final of 2009 edition, and extended the next year to semifinals, is a 50/50 combination of both telephone vote and the votes of juries made up of music professionals. In the past, small demographically-balanced juries made up of ordinary people were used to rank the entries. After the widespread implementation of telephone vote in 1998, juries were only used in case of televoting malfunctions or a weak telephone system. In 2003, Eircom's telephone polls system ceased to operate normally; the Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, did not receive the votes on time and instead used the votes of a panel of judges. In the first years of the telephone vote, the lines were opened for a short period after the performance of the final song. This was changed on the 2010 Contest, in which the lines opened before the first song, allowing viewers to vote during the performances, but this change was reverted for the 2012 contest.
The 1956 Contest did not have regional voting. The BBC had used the idea of contacting regional juries by telephone in their national competition to choose their 1956 song. The EBU later adopted the idea of contacting the international juries by telephone, and was used from the next contest, and used until 1993. In 1994, the Contest saw the first satellite link-up to juries.
For the announcement of the votes, the presenters of the Contest connect by satellite to each country in turn, inviting the spokesperson to read out that country's votes in French or English. Originally, the presenters would then repeat the votes in both languages, but since 2004, due to time constraints, the votes have only translated from English to French and vice-versa instead of repeating the votes in their original language. To offset the extension to voting time caused by the increased number of participating countries, from the 2006 Contest onwards, each country's one- to seven-point votes have been added automatically to the scoreboard as that country's spokesperson was introduced, with only the eight-, ten- and twelve-point scores being read out. The scoreboard displays the number of points each country has received and, since 2008, a progress bar indicating the number of countries that have voted.
In the event of a tie for first place and for other places after all the points have been announced, there is a tie-break procedure. It was realised that a tie-break procedure need be predetermined following the 1969 Contest, where France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom tied for first place. Since no tie-breaking system had been previously decided, it was determined that all four countries be jointly awarded the title. In protest, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Portugal did not participate the following year.
The current tie-breaking rule is that, in the event that two or more countries tie for first place and for other places the song that received points from the greater number of countries is the winner. This system is sometimes called the "count-back". If there is still a tie, the second tie-breaker is to count the number of countries who assigned twelve points to each entry in the tie. Tie-breaks continue with ten points, eight points, and so on until the tie is resolved.
In 1991, the tie-break procedure was put into action when Sweden and France had both scored 146 points at the end of voting. At the time, the tie-break rule was slightly different: the first tie-break rule (the country voted for by the most other countries wins) was not yet in use. Both Sweden and France had received the maximum of twelve points four times. Only when the number of ten-point scores had been counted could Sweden, represented by Carola with the song "Fångad av en stormvind", claim its third victory, having received five ten-point scores against France's two. Thus, the French song, "Le Dernier qui a parlé..." performed by Amina, came second with the smallest ever losing margin.
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Since each of the participating countries casts a series of preference votes, under the current scoring system it is rare that a song fails to receive any votes at all. Under the modern rules this means that the song failed to make the top ten most popular songs in any country.
Under the second-most-used scoring system, however (see below), jurors gave points individually and only to their single favourite song, a system which might be expected to result in songs regularly not being awarded any points. Even so, it was not until 1967 that that occurred under that scoring system — the seventh year of its operation.
When it does happen, it is often referred to in the British populist media as nul points (pronounced as if it were French, although the phrase is meaningless in French). In fact the phrase nul points is never actually read out during the presentation of the Contest. French for "no points" is pas de point and zéro point, and none of these phrases are used in the contest as no-point scores are not announced by the presenters.
Entries which received no points, since the introduction of the current scoring system in 1975 are as follows:
- In 1978, Norway's "Mil etter mil" by Jahn Teigen.
- In 1981, Norway's "Aldri i livet" by Finn Kalvik.
- In 1982, Finland's "Nuku pommiin" by Kojo.
- In 1983, two entries: Turkey's "Opera" by Çetin Alp and The Short Waves and Spain's "¿Quién maneja mi barca?" by Remedios Amaya.
- In 1987, Turkey's "Şarkım Sevgi Üstüne" by Seyyal Taner and Grup Locomotif.
- In 1988, Austria's "Lisa Mona Lisa" by Wilfried.
- In 1989, Iceland's "Það sem enginn sér" by Daníel Ágúst.
- In 1991, Austria's "Venedig im Regen" by Thomas Forstner.
- In 1994, Lithuania's "Lopšinė mylimai" by Ovidijus Vyšniauskas.
- In 1997, two entries: Norway's "San Francisco" by Tor Endresen and Portugal's "Antes do adeus" by Célia Lawson.
- In 1998, Switzerland's "Lass' ihn" by Gunvor.
- In 2003, United Kingdom's "Cry Baby" by Jemini.
- In the 2004 semi-final, Switzerland's "Celebrate" by Piero & The MusicStars
- In the first 2009 semi-final, Czech Republic's "Aven Romale" by Gypsy.cz.
In his book Nul Points, comic writer Tim Moore interviews the first twelve of these performers (he wrote the book before 2009, and only counted artists who received no points in the main contest, thus ignoring semi-finalist Piero) to find out if their Eurovision score was the end of their music career or just the beginning.
Since the creation of a semi-final in 2004 and two semi-finals in 2008, more than thirty countries vote each night - even the countries eliminated or already qualified. Thus occurrences of scoring no points become rarer; it would require a song to place less than tenth in every country and in both jury and televote. In the 2004 semi-final, Switzerland's "Celebrate" by Piero Esteriore & The MusicStars received no points, but only 32 countries out of 36 voted, and in the first 2009 semifinal, where only 20 countries voted, Czech Republic's "Aven Romale" by Gypsy.cz received no points.
In 2003, following the UK's first Zero Score, an online poll voted on the Zero pointers to date with Spain's Remedios Amaya (1983) winning the poll as the song that least deserved a zero. Austria's Wilfried from 1988 ended up last in the Poll taking the wooden spoon as the song that best deserved zero.
Regional block voting
Statistical analysis of the results between 2001 and 2005 suggests the occurrence of regional block voting; it is a matter of debate whether it is primarily explained by conscious political alliances or by a tendency for culturally close countries to have similar musical tastes. Historically, the United Kingdom and France would exchange points at an average of 6.5 points per contest, and the United Kingdom has on many occasions had such a relationship with Ireland. Several countries can be organised into voting blocks which regularly award each other high points:
- Greece and Cyprus;
- Turkey and Azerbaijan;
- Ireland and the United Kingdom;
- The Netherlands and Belgium;
- Andorra, Portugal and Spain;
- Nordic states: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Iceland;
- Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania;
- Romania and Moldova, acting as a bridge between the Balkan and Warsaw Pact states;
- Lithuania and Georgia;
- Azerbaijan and Malta;
- Italy, San Marino and Malta;
- Balkan countries:
- Macedonia and Albania;
- A core contingent of former Yugoslavian countries, most notably Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Croatia;
- Former Warsaw Pact countries of Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova + Israel;
Bjørn Erichsen, former director of Eurovision TV, disagrees with the assertion that regional block voting significantly affects the outcome of the contest, arguing that Russia's first victory in 2008 was only possible with votes from thirty-eight of the participating countries.
|1956||2 points||Two jury members from each country award two points to their favourite song.|
|1957-1961, 1967-1969||1 - 10 points||Ten jury members per country had ten points to give to their favourite songs.|
|1962||3, 2 and 1 points||Ten Jury members per country could give points to their three favourite songs.|
|1963||5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points||Twenty jury members per country could give points to their five favourite songs.|
|1964-1966||5, 3 and 1 points||Ten jury members per country could give points to their three favourite songs.|
|1970, 1974||1 - 10 points||All countries had ten jury members that had ten points to award to their favourite songs. A tie break round was introduced in the event of a tie.|
|1971-1973||2 - 10 points||Two jury members (one aged between 16 to 25 and the other aged 25 to 55 years old) had to rate every song between one to five points.|
|1975-1996||12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points||All countries had at least one jury member that would award points to their top ten songs.|
|1997-2003||Some countries had jury members and some countries used televote to decide which songs would get points.|
|2004-2008||All countries used televoting to decide which songs would receive points.|
|2009-Present||All countries votes were decided by a 50/50 combination of jury and televoting.|
The most-used voting system other than the current one was that used for the 1969 contest. This system had been used between 1957 and 1961, and later between 1967 and 1969. Ten jurors in each country each gave a single vote to their favourite song. In 1969 this resulted in four countries tying for first place (UK, Netherlands, France, and Spain), and there was no tie-break procedure. A "second round" voting in the event of a tie was introduced to this system in 1970.
Between 1962 and 1966, a voting system closer to the current system was used. In 1962 each country awarded its top three one, two and three points; in 1963 the top five were awarded one, two, three, four and five points, and from 1964 until 1966, each country awarded its top three one, three and five points. With the latter system, there was an additional rule that each country could choose not to give points to three countries, but award points to two countries (giving one a three and the other a six). In 1965 Belgium awarded the United Kingdom six, and Italy three points. The system also permitted a country to give a single award of 9 points, but it never happened.
The 1971, 1972, and 1973 contests saw the jurors "in vision" for the first time. Each country was represented by two jurors - one older than 25 and one younger, with at least ten years' difference in their ages. Each juror gave a minimum of one point and a maximum of five points for each song. In 1974 the previous system of ten jurors was used, and the following year the current system was introduced. Spokespeople were next seen on screen in 1994 by satellite link up to the venue.
The 2004 contest was the first time there would be a semi final at the Eurovision Song Contest, but this saw a slight change in the way of voting compared to previous years. For the first time, countries that did not qualify from the Semi Final would still be allowed to cast votes in the Grand Final. This resulted in Ukraine's Ruslana coming first with a record 280 points. If the voting had been the same as the voting conducted between 1956 to 2003, where only finalist countries could vote, then Serbia and Montenegro's Željko Joksimović would have won the 2004 contest with 190 points - with a 15 point lead over second place Ruslana, who would have scored 175 points. To date, non-qualifying countries are still allowed to vote in the Grand Final.
An exceptional occurrence arose in 2006 when, despite not taking part in the 2006 contest due to a scandal in the selection process, Serbia and Montenegro retained voting rights for the contest and voted in both the Semi Final and Grand Final.
With the introduction of two semi-finals in 2008 a new method of selecting finalists was created. The top nine songs ranked by televote qualified, along with one song selected by the back-up juries. This method in most cases meant that the tenth song in the televote placing failed to qualify, and attracted some criticism, especially from Macedonia, who in both years placed 10th in the televote. In 2010 the system used in the 2009 final, where the winner is selected by a combination of televoting and jury votes, was also used to select the semi-finalists.
- Bakker, Sietse (2009-10-11). "Exclusive: Juries also get 50% stake in Semi-Final result!". EBU. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- Nick, Paton Walsh (2003-05-30). "Vote switch 'stole Tatu's Eurovision win'". The Guardian.
- Derek Gatherer (2005-09-20). Comparison of Eurovision Song Contest Simulation with Actual Results Reveals Shifting Patterns of Collusive Voting Alliances.. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
- The Eurovision Song Contest:: Is Voting Political or Cultural?. October 2006.
- Bakker, Sietse. "Eurovision TV Director responds to allegations on voting". Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- Viniker, Barry (2009-05-20). "FYR Macedonia threatens Eurovision withdrawal". ESCToday. Retrieved 24 January 2010.