Democracy Center - Song Message Eurovision

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There was indeed very little concordance in the assessments of the juries and the general public in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 (10 May). The next day the message of the winning song was discussed on the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service´s news. There it was argued that the participating countries had expressed varied attitudes to the message of the winning song. Similar discussions took place on the Internet.

I have sat on the Icelandic Eurovision Song Jury (consisting of 16 jurors) three times in all. In each case the jurors were selected from a number of applicants after an announcement. The criteria for participation were age, residence and gender. The effort required of the jurors was most exhaustive during the first of these three occasions, calling for our presence most of the day. We watched the context thrice, first as a video show, followed by the dress rehearsal and, finally, we watched the Eurovision Song Contest itself. Our discussions during that day were indeed broad and intensive, but no one mentioned the message of the songs as far as I can remember. The melodies were sung in many languages and at one occasion Estonia scored number two by us. Needless to say, we did not understand a word in Estonian.

Let us, as a clarification, imagine that four melodies — songs A, B, C and D — are presented to a jury of sixteen members. Imagine that four jurors decide to place one of the songs at the top, thereby emphasizing a message they find in that song. The other 12 just listen, and each juror votes in accordance with his own taste; they do not ascribe any message to any of the songs. If their tastes are evenly distributed, three of them place A at the top.

Consequently A acquires seven top positions — and wins the contest. However, there is obviously no sense in saying that the jury at whole shares an attitude  to the message. If three jurors agree to place song A at the top and the preferences of the remaining 13 are evenly distributed, A resides at the top as regards the three jurors and the remaining 13 place A at the top at least three times (number of songs divided by the number of jurors in question, i.e. 13/4 = 3.25). Therefore A is firmly 6 times in the first place and stays at the top. If two of the jurors agree on placing A at the top and the preferences of the other 14 are evenly distributed, then A resides at the top as regards the two jurors, and the remaining 14 judges place A at least three times at the top (14/4=3.5). Consequently A hits the top position – this time with a safe margin of five.

With such results the jury as a whole cannot be said to provide support for a particular case. This may also be transferred to the telephone voting by the general public in most of the countries. If a small minority makes a concerted effort in accordance with a message claimed to be inherent in the song and the performance it gives surely results; but such results do not show the attitude of others, i.e. the majority, nor the entirety. No attitude to the message of the winning song will be expressed. Furthermore it does not make sense discussing conceivable differences in attitude between the juries and the public.

Morgunbladid, 19 May 2014 [translated from the Icelandic]