Leave Eurovision Running Order Alone

2012-11-11 1200 GMT

Terrible news for fans of Eurovision Song Contest with the 2013 hosts, Sweden, deciding to determine the running order of songs rather than use a random draw.

Jon Ola Sand from the EBU: Allowing the producers to determine the running order will help to make more exciting television shows and allows each contestant to stand out, instead of being surrounded by entries in similar style or tempo.

This influence is from the Swedes and, in particular, Christer Björkman, who do this for their national selection competition, Melodifestivalen, of which Björkman is supervisor and will be involved with next year’s ESC in Malmö. There’s a huge difference here. Most of Sweden knows already all the songs and especially the artists of MF so there’s less room for bias from the show, whereas the vast bulk for ESC are watching totally fresh so there they can be influenced by particulars like running order. It’s generally accepted that performing later is a slight advantage.

While the idea to make the show more vibrant is fine, this is straight out manipulation and fraught with danger. The most highly regarded factors in the draw are start near first or start near last. Who would get the last place? MF typically puts the “best” song last in both the last of the four semi-finals and then last in final, and therefore “anoints” best song. At ESC, songs placed near the end will also have this “anointed” factor and prejudice the vote in terms of the better placement.

The placement is even more critical at ESC because the show is so long with 26 songs in the final that many people may not see the early songs, whereas the 10 songs of MF’s final are easily consumed. MF is also a dedicated audience while ESC has a far larger proportion of casual and itinerant viewers.

Would Montenegro be happy with this situation? They’ve been unlucky to draw first spot in the first semi-final of their last three appearances at ESC. Now they might just be placed there for “great television”.

As a compromise, ESC should group the songs by ballad, pop, dance, ethnic, etc, and then draw a song from each pot to fill the slots predetermined for a category in the running order. FIFA does similar with its football World Cup draw so seeded teams are keep separated.

Let’s just hope there’s no controversy, otherwise this could be the beginning of Sweden really corrupting ESC.  Sweden commit other atrocities in MF already by allowing 8 on stage to allow expanded choreographic routines (ESC is only 6), and even more heinous is Sweden allow recorded backing-track vocals. They need to be smacked down. It’s called a song contest, not TV extravaganza contest. ESC is doing just fine as is.

An idea that wasn’t approved was expanding the voting. At present there’s 10 allocations of points: 12, 10, 8 to 1. That was fine in the early days of ESC when there were often only 10 countries or a tad more. These days the final has 26 songs. Increase the allocations to 15, with those extra 5 allocations worth 14, 16, 19, 22 and 25. So there’s no more famous “douze points”; instead it will be “vingt cinq points”.

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