Seeing Through Transparency

2014 eurovision rules

Good news everyone! That lovely EBU have changed the Eurovision rules and given us a whole load of much-needed transparency. We all want transparency. Can’t get enough of it. From now on, we’ll know the exact number of marks each juror gives to each country in each semi and each final of Eurovision. The hope is that this will make it harder for people to influence the decisions of jurors. 

I’m not so sure of that. Will voting publicly really make juror’s more objective?

Say you’re an Azerbaijani juror sitting down to vote on Copenhagen 2014. Your tyrannical and repressive government has openly criticised last year’s votes for not awarding anything to Russia. You know they have a track record of arresting televoters who voted the wrong way. They also control the media and have the power to ruin your career in music. They can now see your individual votes. Who do you give big marks to?

corruptionMy feeling is that the new rules will do little more than provide a way for the fixers to keep tabs on their investment. Azerbaijan’s puzzlement at where their votes for Russia went in 2013 gives me the impression that someone in the jury didn’t vote how they were told. That won’t be happening next year.

I don’t see how the rules will aid people in catching cheats either. I’m sure everyone will try to spot them. In the weeks after the contest in May, there’ll be plenty of fans going through the jury scores with a fine tooth comb, me included. However, these investigations will be little more than guesswork. You can’t prove that a judge didn’t like a song as much they claim; not through their votes alone. Judges will always have the defence of coincidence and personal taste.

The main thing we’ll be looking for is where individual jurors vote identically to each other. I don’t think vote-riggers are that stupid, though. If you’re going to the trouble of rigging an entire jury’s votes, the new rules only require a little bit of extra planning to cover your tracks. Instruct two of your jurors to give your chosen winner top marks, another couple to put your favourite second and the other juror can put it sixth or something. As long as you then arrange for the jury to spread out their other top marks, you’ve got yourself a jury win without drawing suspicion.

We knew all about Mika Newton's phone votes in 2011.

We knew all about Mika Newton’s phone vote shenanigans in 2011.

I don’t mean to come across as soft on cheating. I just think there are other ways of ensuring a fair vote. For a start, you can introduce transparency into the phone votes, where it’s much more useful. Give us the percentages. Maybe you could break them down by SMS and phone votes or show the number of votes per voter (like how in the 2011 Ukrainian NF we knew Mika Newton’s voters averaged 14 votes each).

There are better ways of improving the integrity of the jurors. The EBU could pick the jurors themselves, instead of trusting the job to the broadcasters. It would certainly be much harder for delegations to swap votes with each other if they don’t have their own hand-picked experts doing the voting. Increasing the number of jurors could also help. It would then cost more to buy an entire jury off and (if individual votes were kept secret) it would be harder to pin down individual jurors for not voting as they’re told.

The EBU’s changes to the rules seem to me more motivated by PR than anything else. They are designed to show that the EBU themselves aren’t hiding anything, while doing little to actually combat potential corruption. If anything, they could make the problem worse.

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