As a life long UK citizen, I’m used to my country entering Eurovision annually and never doing terribly well. Middle of the board is a victory worth celebrating, as is every time a nation gives us even a passable number of points. Eurovision is a night of tiny victories and national pride in victories that we know won’t ever add up to a larger success.
Its not about winning, it’s about celebrating every time a country likes us enough to award us more than nil points.
However, Eurovision 2016 had a very different tone and feel to previous years by its conclusion. While roughly 90% of the contest remained unchanged, a change to the voting system had a big impact on the way the evening ended.
While judges and audience phone votes are usually tallied up together behind the scenes and announced as a single set of scores, this year judge and audience votes were split into two separate categories.
The concept on paper was sound. Break up any chance for non transparent policitical voting from judging panels, give more points across the evening so that more countries feel like winners and aim to make the overall winner more of a surprise.
Unfortunately, in practice, this did not pan out as hoped.
While the new voting system did succeed in making the overall winner less predictable, it came at the cost of a far heavier focus on winning and losing which had a big impact on the tone toward the end of the show.
While the judge votes were announced as per normal, phone votes saw a significant shake up. Gone were the country by country break downs of national vote allocations and the slow drip feed of points, replaced instead with full international phone vote totals announced from fewest international votes to highest.
What this switch achieved in practice was a focus on defeat, loss and failure. What could have been a steady drip feed of tiny victories by a country not expecting to win became “you got the third fewest fan votes, you are not going to rise any higher than this on the score board, thanks for playing”.
The feeling as these scores were being announced was not an air of celebration for the points that had been earned, but a depressing focus on the points that had been missed. Nations would find out their allocated points, realise that winning was impossible in one instant gut punch rather than a slow dawning feeling, and the camera would pan to a defeated nation and their depressed sounding crowd.
A nation could get over 300 points allocated to them in the phone vote, realise they had not won, and have a defeated, depressed sigh all in a matter of moments.
Nobody was cheering the successes happening, only feeling shame they had failed to win.
This shift in focus, and the subsequent shift in tone it caused, really damaged my enjoyment of the ending of Eurovision by flying in the face of what makes the competition great. It robbed us of the chance to celebrate tiny meaningless international victories and instead shifted eyes to a room of nations who failed to do well enough.
Eurovision is about silly, light hearted fun. The change to the show this year ruined a lot of what made the show amazing.