#EDITORIAL: How do you pick a song?

EDITORIAL: How do you pick a song?

Don’t worry, we’re not using a certain Norwegian in this editorial, as we know small children sometimes read our work.

You may have read around the Internet about the selection processes of certain countries. We at EI think this needs to be brought into perspective a little.

Firstly, the EBU invites broadcasters to participate in the Song Contest, as well as other events. The song therefore strictly represents a broadcaster, not a country. However, as only one broadcaster per country can participate, it’s obvious that, for example, the RTÉ representative is also the Irish representative.

When you consider that the EBU is nothing more than a trade organisation, whilst it can set certain rules, its members have a large degree of autonomy. Each country has different values, different priorities, and different audiences; these broadcasters must reflect that in their output.

As far as Eurovision goes, we’ve no issue at all with how a country selects a song. Many different processes have been tried and tested over the years, some with more success than others. The tendency these days is some form of mixture between televoting by the public in the country concerned, and panel of experts, which for ease we’ll call a jury.

How a broadcaster puts together a jury is entirely up to them. Members of the entertainment industry are a popular choice, as when we get to the big three shows, these folk will make up 50% of the final mark. The jury itself can be a curious thing. Some broadcasters just go for home-grown talent. This can work as they will want a song that truly represents their own country, especially if the said country doesn’t often get a chance to shine on the world stage.

Or there’s the jury made of up a country’s non-nationals. This argument can also work because once a song gets to the madness of the Eurovision fortnight, its own nation’s voters will have no say on how it can do. It’s therefore nice to get the take of an international audience, who will be voting on the song.

As I say, there’s no right or wrong method. Ideally, the 50/50 split between jury and televote prepares what a broadcaster with what their song will go through during one or two shows in May.

However, this 50/50 splitting is also not set in stone. Some broadcasters see fit – as is their prerogative – to apply a tweak. Let’s take Malta in 2013 as an example.

TVM employed seven jurors, only three of whom were Maltese. Each juror gave marks in the familiar pattern of 1-12. The televote was then added in, but this vote was only the equivalent of one juror. Effectively the Maltese public only represented 12.5% (one eighth) of the final vote. Comments were made that this might not be seen to be fair, coming back to the fact the argument that a song must be representative of the country. However, Gianluca Bezzina went on to Malmö, came fourth in his semi-final and eighth in the Grand Final. It seems the system may not be perfect, but Malta came away from Sweden undisgraced.

With any vote – not just juries – there can always be allegations of corruption, vote-rigging, call it what you will. For example, how do we know that the televote figures are real? How do we know that the jurors haven’t got together beforehand to contrive a result that suits? We don’t. It’s one person’s word against another. And don’t forget, opinions of a song can change. I know I’ll admit to massively changing opinion of one song between first hearing it and seeing it on stage in a contest rehearsal.

In the round, therefore, I think we need to take a step back from any allegations of rigging unless they can be conclusively proven. Sure, there have been smoking guns out there in the past. But as I’ve sometimes heard people say, each country gets the song it deserves. Just as each contest gets the winner it deserves.

Do you agree with us? How much say should a nation’s public have a say in selecting a song? Should it be left to a jury, whether it’s domestic or an international one? Tell us what you think.”

Author: John Stanton

Source: Eurovision Ireland

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