Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The scandal of Eurovision voting

Before I start, I want to reassure you that this is not going to be an utterly predictable and clichéd rant about block voting about how certain countries always vote for each other etc etc.

That subject has been done to death by all manner of people over the last few years, usually the "clever dicks" who like to offer "informed" opinions that they've either heard other people mouthing off about or that they've read in "The Sun".

Yes, there is an element of that, but it's nothing like as pronounced as people would have you believe. But that's not the only reason we don't win.

"All the other countries hate us" is the other xenophobic chant from the ill-informed masses. No. The truth is all the other countries hate our entries because they are on the whole, rubbish. We've no god given right to win the Eurovision song contest any more than we've got a right to win the World Cup because we "gave the game to the world" - allegedly.

All of that aside though, as a statistician by trade (15 years with Nielsen has left its mark) I think the methodology for the voting is hugely flawed for another reason.

You may or may not be aware that the points awarded by each country are made up of a combination of votes from a jury, and votes from a telephone phone in. But the weighting methodology used to combine these numbers is done by a simplistic formula which adds the numbers together and allows the juries opinion to completely sway popular opinion.

Take this Saturday - a prime example. You - the British Public, with your telephone votes (which I hasten to add you PAID FOR) voted the Poland song by Donatan & Cleo your favourite.

Let's leave aside the reasons why they were so popular (bet there were a lot of men voting!) but the simple fact is that out of thousands if not tens of thousands of voters, we made them our top choice. That's a big sample and what we at Nielsen would deem "statistically valid".

Then you've got the jury. There are five people on that and they are meant to offer their "expert opinion" to rank the acts. Their opinion is given equal weighting to the phone vote. So what we are saying here is that these five people are considered equal to the rest of the British voting public. So if they want to sneer down their noses at a song and vote it down they can. For reasons known only to themselves (perhaps they objected to the sexual content of the performance) they voted the Poland song the WORST of the contest.

The net result of this? Instead of getting 12 points from the UK, as it should have done, the snooty jury's decision dropped it far enough down the list meant that we gave it no points at all. Nul point as they say in Eurovision land.

So what is the point of all of you out there phoning your votes through if your collective opinions are going to effectively count for nothing? I'd be asking for my money back if I'd spent any money on a meaningless phone call such as this.

This pattern was repeated across Europe by the way, not just here. Exactly the same thing happened with the Poland song in Ireland and there were similar The people did not decide the winner of the Eurovision song contest. The juries did.

Either scrap the juries with their prejudiced opinions and let the people decide or change the weighting system to give higher weight to those songs at the top of the lists.

Here comes the maths bit.

Currently they just combine a total of the two rankings using a simple 27 points down to 1 for the order of points allocation and then just adding together the scores from the jury and the phone votes is simple and naive. i.e. 27 points for first, 26 for second, 25 for third and so on. Such a system leaves Poland in this instance on 28 points which would rank them below a country who came say 13th in both the phone vote and the jury vote (15+15 = 30) which is clearly ludicrous.

A weighted system with points on a sliding scale from say 100 down to 1 would be much more efficient. I would propose something like 100 - 80 - 60 - 50 - 40 - 30 - 25 - 20 - 19 - 18 - 17 - 16 - 15 - 14 -13 - 12 - 11 -10- 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 -3 - 2 - 1.

If they had done it that way and then added the points together then Poland could have come no worse than sixth in our overall rankings and even with the jury hating it, at least our public votes would have got them five points. A much fairer system. Are you listening, Eurovision organisers?


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