The second esctoday.com TOP TEN list continues with the places 3 and 2 being announced. As announced on Saturday, this week's topic are the TOP TEN innovations that changed Eurovision.
Innovations in the rules and innovations in the production of the Eurovision Song Contest could qualify for the list if they changed the competition in one of the following aspects:
- The way the contest is seen by the general public
- The way the contest is seen by fans
- The popularity of the contest
- The outward appearance
- The addition of elements that helped making the contest a "cult event"
No. 3: Televoting (1997)
The story behind number three on the list is one of the examples that the grass always seems greener on the other side. Between 1956 and 1996, juries alone decided over the winners in the Eurovision Song Contest. Although they did choose many songs that became hits, there were some years when songs other than the winning one became bigger hits. The most classic examples here are probably Cliff Richard's Congratulations in 1968 and Domenico Modugno's Nel blu, dipinto di blu in 1958. While the judges seemed to be slightly closer to the general taste in the 1970s and 1980s picking international hits like Waterloo and Hold me now, in the 1990s few of the winning songs were accepted well by the public. During those years, almost always rather classic entries – mostly ballads – won the contest and none of them became a major hit. On the other hand, the juries often gave not too many points to modern entries like the Spanish entry in 1993 and the UK entries in 1995 and 1996. In fact, Gina G's Ooh aah just a little bit finished eighth in Oslo but was the biggest hit of the year by a mile as it was a commercial success not only in Europe but also in the United States and Australia. The winning song that year, The voice by Eimear Quinn, was a commercial flop outside Ireland and could be classified a "forgotten winner". This might be one of the reasons, why televoting was introduced the year after. Only five countries – Sweden, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria and Germany – let the public decide who should win in Dublin. From 1998 onwards, televoting was obligatory although some countries still used juries for technical reasons. In 2001 and 2002, countries were allowed to use a mixture of televoting and jury voting.
The televoting was a success. Interest in the contest increased again and it did help some of the broadcasters make some extra money. More importantly, some winning songs became hits again. Diva, Fly on the wings of love, Every way that I can and Hard rock hallelujah all achieved remarkable chart positions all over Europe. Strangely enough, the two years when 50/50 jury voting was allowed (2001 and 2002) resulted in the commercially least successful entries over those years. This all sounds rather nice, but as mentioned at the beginning: The grass always seems greener on the other side. After the televoting had started complaints increased concerning bloc voting and diaspora voting. Although friendly neighbours were nothing new as the Nordic countries had already exchanged votes in the 1960s, it was more obvious with more countries taking part. Especially two blocs in Eastern Europe – the former USSR countries and former Yugoslavia – were accused of being more generous towards their neighbours than towards other countries. It has been statistically verified that bloc voting did not affect the results in the higher places as much as it seems (the same accounts for diaspora voting). Furthermore, since the introduction of televoting every year a different country won, but nevertheless the complaints went on and on. In the semi finals of 2008 and 2009, the EBU let the juries decide the tenth qualifier of the semi finals and in the 2009 final, 50/50 jury voting was introduced.
Both in 2009 and 2010 songs won that became hits, but Norway's Fairytale would have also won based on televoting alone. Still, the Eurofans should be happy now, shouldn't they? Well, many of them still aren't. In 2010, bloc voting seems to have increased again, especially in the former USSR bloc, which saw Georgia in first place ahead of Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The countries of former Yugoslavia saw Serbia in first place and Bosnia & Herzegovina in second place along with Germany (based on average scores given). So what should be done about that? Probably nothing. Bloc voting is just natural considering that many of those countries share a music market and that many artists are also known in their neighbouring countries. This is no effect exclusive to Eastern Europe: Since the beginning of the contest countries that share a language or a music market tend to give each other higher votes. Nevertheless, it affects most of the countries and therefore the voting is (not entirely, but somehow) in balance. Some countries as Andorra, who are not famous for their music scene, of course still have a disadvantage. But the problem remains – no matter if juries or televoters decide over the results.
The fist ESC recap in 1997 – a new feature introduced thanks to televoting:
No. 2: Semi finals (2004)
Between 1993 and 2003, relegation reduced the number of countries taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest. Many countries were not really happy that they had to miss an edition, most notably those who almost never managed to qualify for the next edition. It also meant a decrease in the viewing figures of the contest, especially if one of the bigger countries was missing out. In 2004, a semi final was introduced to make sure that every country could submit an entry. The top ten of the previous year along with the big four were directly qualified for the final while the other entries had to go through the semi final stage. Ten of them eventually qualified for the final. Although all countries could now take part, it can still be seen as a disadvantage to those countries that often do not too well. During the years of relegation, they could take part in the final every second year at least. Nowadays, it is possible that a country never sees the final. The most unlucky one here is Andorra, which took part every year between 2004 and 2009 but never made it. The Netherlands also did not make it to the final six years in a row. Estonia, one of the most successful countries of the late 1990s and early 2000s, did not qualify six times in total. Since 2008, two semi finals have been held with only the host country and the big four being directly qualified for the final.
The introduction of the semi final has changed the Eurovision Song Contest a lot for the fans. More countries taking part means more national finals, more songs and more excitement. The biggest event of the year is now not only held over three hours, but over three nights. Of course, it also caused some disappointment. Some songs that were fan favorites never qualified for the final. Among them are the Dutch and Icelandic entries in 2005, the Cypriot entry in 2007 and the Swedish entry in 2010.
Lane moje – first semi final winning song in 2004:
Tomorrow, we will reveal number one on the list.