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Is Norway’s 60/40 Split The Future Of Eurovision? Written by on February 4, 2024 | 2 Comments

At Melodi Grand Prix in Norway this year, the public was given 60 per cent of the voting share, whereas international juries made up 40 per cent of the total points distribution. Ben Robertson looks at how this change impacted Norway’s result and if Eurovision should learn from what Norway has introduced this year.

Congratulations to Gåte, the Norwegian band who brought their take on a traditional folktale to Melodi Grand Prix, who now have the chance to take it to the whole Eurovision Song Contest.

Outside the dancing robots, tender ballads and the insane statistics that all qualifiers were drawn in last three songs in each heat, the thing that caught my attention about Melodi Grand Prix is the voting system.

The team from broadcaster NRK decided that in the show’s final for 2024 that there would be a jury vote and a public vote to decide their winner. This is not unusual. What is unusual is the decision to make that split 60/40 in favour of the televote.

This is unusual because most countries that use a jury and televote make a 50/50 split, just like the Eurovision Song Contest (yes, we note the Rest of the World vote now makes it a touch more public vote). This isn’t true everywhere, for example some countries switch the balance towards the juries, especially if they have more than one jury in place. Ireland is an example of this, where an Irish jury, international jury and public vote all have the same power.

However there is a particular reason why it is fascinating that Norway has chosen such an unbalanced split, especially after using a 50/50 system at Melodi Grand Prix. That reason is because in recent months the Norwegian Head of Delegation, Stig Karlsen, has spoken about how the public should have a larger say in who the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest is.

More Power To The People

The following table shows the final results of Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix final with both a 50/50 public/jury split and the 60/40 public/jury split used on the night.

An estimate of the results of Melodi Grand Prix 2024 if it was a 50/50 distribution between jury and televote.

While we do not have the full data on exactly the number of votes each act had to calculate the exact final score, we can confirm that in a 50/50 split then KEiiNO would have taken the ticket to Malmö.

KEiiNO had a lead of 22 points over Gåte thanks to the juries, and from the ten juries the group received half of the douze points and no ranking less than 4th place. Gåte’s number was notably more spread in opinion, with seven juries placing ‘Ulveham’ in their top two, but also scoring zero points from both the Danish and Dutch juries.

It’s easy to argue that this rule change, and shifting power to the public, can be considered a positive for the Norwegian broadcaster. With ‘Ulveham’ we have the first song in the Norwegian language since 2006 to the Song Contest, the first rock song in Eurovision since 2005 from this fjord-filled nation, and a musical choice that will provide a powerful three minute cultural history lesson into the depths of Norwegian folklore across all of Europe. Public broadcasting dreams.

The switch from 50/50 to 60/40 isn’t a large one, and the majority of National Finals in recent years where 50/50 saw the televote winner not go to the Song Contest wouldn’t have seen their results change.‘Cicciolina’ would have still fallen short in UMK 2020. ‘Bigger Than The Universe’ would still lose to Cornelia Jakobs at Melodifestivalen 2022, ‘Hold On’ wouldn’t have taken the trophy in 2017, and Sanna Nielsen’s ‘Empty Room’ would have still been far behind Charlotte Perrelli in 2008. Even in Denmark this ratio would have still seen Reiley conquer over Nicklas Sonne’s ‘Freedom’, and ‘League of Light’ from 2018 would still fall short to Leonora, and ‘Suitcase’ by Anna Gaadegard would have just missed out by about a single point to Anti-Social Media in 2015.

Examples where a 60/40 split would have changed hands are few and far between. One of them is Nanne Grönvall’s ‘Håll Om Mig’ which would have taken victory in 2005. Saara Aalto would have also got the ticket to Eurovision earlier, with ‘No Fear’ overcoming Saarija in 2016. Another one happened just after Gåte’s victory in Trondheim. If Malta had chosen a 60/40 system, rather than the one they used that gave much more weight to jury rather than the public, then Matt Blxck and his ‘Banana’ would have been gracing the Eurovision stage in Malmö.

As the majority of recent Eurovision winners have also been televote winners, there have not been many changes in the world of Eurovision winners. Eurovision has been a hybrid of jury and televote in the Grand Final since 2009. Since then the number of winners that would have changed hands with 60/40 rather than 50/50 since 2009 would have been just one. Any televoting percentage at 59% or higher would have been enough for Käärijä to overcome Loreen and win the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.

Finland is a nation where a 60/40 split in favour of the televote is not enough. Once again their selection show for Eurovision, Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu, uses a 75/25 split, giving even more weight towards the will of the Finnish public.

A 75/25 split would see Eurovision change hands a couple of further times from reality, with Il Volo in 2015 and Sergey Lazarev in 2016 taking home the trophy thanks to televoting landslides. A 75/25 split would also have seen Sanna Nielsen and Anders Bagge represent Sweden in 2008 and 2022 respectively, as well as all three of the Danish National Finalists named above.

Where Should The Balance Be?

We have three examples in the Eurovision world where we have found 60/40 has caused a change of winner. What ‘Håll Om Mig’, ‘Ulveham’, ‘Cha Cha Cha’ and even ‘Banana’ have in common is that they are all a celebration of something loved by the people, proud of what they stand up for that goes against the grain in the world of commercial music. The alternatives that would have won in their place, ‘Las Vegas’, ‘Damdiggida’, ‘Tattoo’ and ‘Loop’ all represent sounds and styles that were far more conventional, far more mainstream Song Contest, than what the alternative universe choices would have given us.

It is easy to articulate a preference in favour of a fully televote system or a fully jury system for the Song Contest. I’d argue those who want a balanced system like today’s 50/50 then that is easy to make arguments in favour of. As soon as one tinkers with the balance to make it 60/40 or 75/25 it becomes very difficult to rationally work out which number combination gives the perfect balance.

Both juries and televoters have their own unique strengths. Juries tend to be less impacted by running order bias and are less likely to see their votes follow the often repeatable patterns of diaspora voting. However televoters are more likely to get on board with more modern trends and choose acts that can find success outside what conventional music’s square rules and radio airplay focus can dictate. That’s why today’s rule makers give us a balance of them both in finding our Eurovision winner.

It is also worth remembering that today’s Eurovision Song Contest isn’t strictly 50/50, with a Rest of the World vote being added to the televote ensuring that the public gets an extra 58 points to distribute than the jurors do. Could we expand the weight of the Rest of the World vote to make it more impactful, and thus increasing the weight of the public vote via a different mechanism?

We are in Sweden this year, could some sort of second screen application a la Melfest be used to give out extra points from the public in addition to the televote? We’ve now had online voting as a part of Junior Eurovision for years, requiring voters to choose three competing entries and cast their votes accordingly. While huge question marks exist about the fairness of this at Junior Eurovision, including this or other mechanics as a small percentage of the total score would increase engagement in a way that won’t be a big gamble for the EBU.

Simply increasing the televoting percentage from 50/50 would be a naive and arguably knee-jerk reaction to last year’s stunning jury landslide. However if there are different mechanisms to bring in the will of the people and diversify the view of the voting public much more, that could be a valuable reason to do so.

Public voting exists in the Song Contest so that we get engagement from the viewers watching at home. Any change in the balance of voting power at Eurovision shouldn’t just be about raw numbers, it should be about the different ways to increase participation of the audience with the outcome of the show.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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2 responses to “Is Norway’s 60/40 Split The Future Of Eurovision?”

  1. Ben CG says:

    I think adjusting the voting balance is completely barking up the wrong tree. Sure there are examples to point to where juries have “robbed” a televote winner of a ticket to ESC, or in last year’s case the trophy itself.

    It’s unfortunate that juries have tended towards middle of the road or have just been a proxy superfan vote rather than giving weight to musicality. but too much power to the public almost always results in weirder, less commercially viable winners. I don’t want us going back to the noughties, becoming the Eurovision Meme Contest and after years of lobbying the BBC to take it seriously, it flips back to something few other countries are.

    60/40 might be a good split on paper, but I think the biggest mistake was making the semis 100% televote. It creates an uneven playing field where semi participants have to pick a song that appeals to the televote first and Big 5 countries can strategically afford to go for pure jury fodder. If 60/40 is the new balance, then it has to be that way in all three shows.

    Personally if I was in Osterdahl’s position, I would stick with 50/50 but be more of an interventionist, and privately advise broadcasters to weed out the meme acts out for a quick buck that won’t do the contest any favours, AND avoid bland, inoffensive pop. If participating broadcasters want to promote their national cultures, uplift their representatives careers and the reputation of the contest as a whole, then that’s what their national final participants or internal selections need to reflect.

  2. Ben CG says:

    I forgot to add, aside from 2023 generally being a poor field, the reason Loreen’s jury score in the final was so unassailable is because the televoters had absolute power over who the juries could pick from to begin with. If there are fewer jury friendly songs in the final, then you’re going to see the juries pile all their points onto one song with a televote that’s much more evenly split and ultimately less influential. That’s why you need the same voting balance in all three shows.

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