The Most Successful Selection Processes in Eurovision 2014.
Internal Selection vs. One-off Shows v. Multi-Shows
Amongst the many debates that are held regarding what should be done to win (or do well at) the Eurovision Song Contest, one that comes up a great deal of the time is the method of selection of a country’s entry. Selection methods have varied over the years, but have generally tended to boil down into three basic types – an internal selection by the broadcaster of the song and singer; a once-off mini-Eurovision style show with a number of artists performing followed by a vote; and a series of heats, semi-finals and finals spread out over a number of days or weeks, culminating in a grand final.
Within these three main types are a myriad of sub-types – broadcasters have often selected an artist but allowed the public vote on a song (less commonly, some have done it the other way around), some use existing TV shows or festivals to select an artist (e.g. Sanremo), some have used speciality TV programmes (usually of the Operacion Triunfo variety).
The method of voting can be through SMS, internet voting, or televotes (or historically, postcard voting), or just with juries, or often a combination of the two. Some allow performers to sing their own songs, but some, like Lithuania’s Byzantine-esque “Eurovizijos” dainų konkurso nacionalinė atranka (the title as long and complicated as the selection process) or Ireland’s You’re A Star TV programmes, attempt to match songs with artists (arguably not very successfully).
Much importance is attached by Eurovision fans to the way in which their country’s artist is selected, and it often reflects badly on broadcasters if the chosen entrant does badly, especially if there has been no public consultation or public vote beforehand. The BBC especially has come in for criticism for the last number of years in relation to their entrants, which have been the result of an internal selection, and which have failed to live up to the expectations of either the British media or the British Eurovision fans.
Many people believe that internal selections show a lack of interest in the broadcaster in the Eurovision Song Contest; others feels that once-off national finals, while an improvement, do little to showcase the variety of songs available for entry, or the abilities of their singers. In many respects, a selection of five to ten songs, the average for a national final, is little more than a slightly extended internal selection, and selection committees can often be biased against different music styles, depending on the size of the selection committee, their selection, and how they pick their songs. Many point to the extravaganzas of Melodifestivalen (the grand-daddy of multi-show selections), A Dal or Melodi Grand Prix as a better method of picking a likely Eurovision winner, simply by the choice of songs and singers on show (and hence more hypothetical winners) and the money ploughed into the event.
However, others argue that an internal selection allows a broadcaster to concentrate on professional singers and songwriters without the expense or pressure of going through a national final, and allows the artists to concentrate on the main Contest itself. Others point to financial issues regarding multi-show selection events, especially in countries with small populations who do not have either the financial resources or professional singing/songwriting talent to sustain an extended (and expensive) multi-show competition.
But is this true? How important is the method of entry selection to success at Eurovision?
Entry selection methods change over the years, and by the countries themselves. The biggest shake-up to Eurovision entry selection was the development of mobile phones, social media and the near-saturation of reality-style television programming in the opening years of the 21st century. While the effects of these developments on the Contest have been analysed elsewhere, a lasting legacy was the emphasis on the general public having some input into the selection process, at the expense of national or regional juries (as with the main Eurovision contest itself).
The decline of the appeal of reality-style TV at the turn of the decade, the general lack of success that it brought to countries that used this model at Eurovision, and the success and penetration of the Melodifestivalen-style selection process, has meant many countries have turned their backs on the talent show/reality TV model in favour of an internal competition. Others, for reasons of economy or policy, have stuck with the internal selection model, while others retain the one-off show.
In looking at the selection processes used in 2014, of the 37 songs selected to compete in Copenhagen, 12 were internal selections, 12 were selected at a once-off competition , and 13 were selected in the multiple show format – almost exactly a third of the total songs falling into each category.
Within these three selection processes there were many variations, but in the interests of clarity, I classify each selection process as either an Internal Selection, a Once-Off Show, or a Multi-Show system, depending on how suitable the categorisation is for the method of selection. Although Albania’s song was effectively selected from 16 songs in a one-off show by a jury vote, the previous two nights had seen two heats of eight songs each performed – with no voting (effectively a preview).
I am also classifying Switzerland as having held a once-off contest, although a webcast had been used to show the competition involved in whittling the original entries down to the final six. Azerbaijan had internally selected their song, but had used a “You’re A Star” type talent show to pick an artist, while Israel selected their artist but allowed her to perform 3 songs, with SMS voting to pick the country’s entry. Given that the song (arguably) should take precedence over the performer, I am classifying Azerbaijan as having an internal selection, and Israel as having a once-off selection contest.
Belgium and Lithuania were the only other countries, apart from Azerbaijan, to incorporate the talent show format, using a hybrid system to decide their entries, but were multi-show processes. Norway, while having 2 semi-finals and a final, held the three shows over three consecutive nights rather than over a longer period, but they are classed as being a multi-show entry, given that both semi-finals involved voting and the elimination of candidates.
As stated above, more or less a third of the songs entered in the contest fell into each category. However, in the 26 song final, 38% were internal selections, 35% from once-off finals and rather surprisingly, only 27% from a multi-show system. The Top Five was dominated by internal selections (1st Austria, 2nd Netherlands and 4th Armenia ) with a multi-show system selection coming in 3rd (Sweden) and 5th (Hungary). Another internal selection (Russia 7th), a multi-show (Norway 8th) and 3 one-off contests (Ukraine 6th, Denmark 9th and Spain 10th) rounded off the Top Ten. The Bottom Five was fairly evenly balanced between once-off contests (France last and Slovenia second-last), 2 internal selections (San Marino and Azerbaijan) and a multi-show entry (Malta).
Owing to the dominance of internally selected entries in the Top 5, the proportion of the total overall points going to entries selected in this way is correspondingly high too. Internally selected entries took 47% of the total points available on the night, with entries selected in a multi-show system taking 30% and entries selected at one-off events taking a mere 23% of the total points, or less than half the number of points that were given to internally selected entries.
Based on the 2014 experience, the likelihood of qualifying for the final, ending up in the Top Five and the Top Ten, and gaining the maximum points possible for your entry, would seem to point marginally to having an entry selected internally, with the multi-show system the next best option. But overall, in 2014 at least, there does not appear to be a huge justification for saying that one selection process is superior to another, especially as this year was unusual in that the Top 2 positions were held by countries who both had selected their entries internally, and whose recent record in Eurovision had not been outstanding (the Top 2 entries in 2013 were from a one-off show and a multi-show format).
It should probably be noted that the two most successful one-off show entrants in 2014 were Ukraine (6th place, who had 20 songs in their national final) and Denmark (9th place, who had 10 songs in their national final), while France, who came last, had only 3 songs in their National Final, and Slovenia, who were second last, had only 7.
It could be argued that in the case of a broadcaster deciding on a once-off final to select their entry, the greater the number of songs in the final, the better the chances of sending a song that will do well, as any potential bias of a bias of a small selection committee is somewhat nullified.
Let us know what you think is the best way to select a Eurovision entry for the contest? Is internal better following the success of 2014 or should the multi show format be grown by broadcasters? Let us know!
Guest Author : Barry Joyce
Source : Eurovision Ireland
Categories: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Eurovision 2014, Eurovision 2015, Eurovision Predictions 2015, Eurovision Voting, Eurovision Winners, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine