Editorial: Online voting is the future – but how?

Online voting is the future, also for adult Eurovision, argues ESCDaily’s Chief Editor Steef van Gorkum in this editorial. However, there are still many concerns that EBU needs to address.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a leading event, a trendsetter, both in music and in technology. That means that we cannot afford to wait too long before we introduce online voting into the event. The only question is: how?

Geo-blocking online votes is impossible

In the system EBU tested in Junior Eurovision 2017, the online voting took place without borders. People from all over the world could vote, even for their own country, and all the votes were counted together. EBU chose this because geo-blocking online votes supposedly was not feasible.

I am not an IT-expert, so I don’t know if this is true. And I love the old system in which every country had their own national televote. However, we might have to get used to this change. One big pile of online votes, after all, has a lot of advantages, including the fact that people from non-participating countries can vote.

Russia and Poland did not rig the vote

The disadvantages – people can vote for their own country, along with the security risks – led many fans to believe countries such as Russia or Poland could easily rig the vote in their favor.

Given how the result turned out last night, I would argue that EBU’s preventing systems (forcing people to vote for at least 3 countries & forcing voters to watch the recap first) worked. The online voting results were pretty evenly divided (just like in Melodifestivalen), with the winner Netherlands (!) taking not more than 12% of the points. Russia and Poland underperformed compared to their jury scores.

However, I do think there is a moral obligation for EBU to release more details about their security system. While I understand their policy of security through obscurity, I do think that it’s important to have public support for the outcome of the contest. Currently, people doubt the system and therefore the result. Whether their doubts are rightful or not – EBU needs to address them. Transparancy is the only way to do that.

Eurovision is not only about the liveshow

Then there was the concern of pre-voting taking away the importance of the live-performance. For me, this was never really an issue. Turning the Eurovision sport into something more than just one night, not only makes it more interesting for journalists who follow rehearsals, it also forces the participants to perform well on multiple occassions. That reduces the influence of luck in the contest and therefore makes the competition fairer.

EBU told ESCDaily that this was an intentional decision, that they want Eurovision to become more than just a one-night event. Through opening up the vote early, they want to include a part of the audience, presumably younger people, who are not willing to tune in for a live broadcast at a set time anymore (especially when they can watch all their other favorite shows on Netflix any time they want). Pre-voting is the way to involve such people with Eurovision.

I do believe this is a strong argument. However, we have to keep in mind that the audience who prefer to vote before and not during the show, is still just a small minority. The fact that the EBU’s voting website broke down during the live show, proves that the organisation did not expect such a massive turnout during the live broadcast. Such things cannot happen during the adult contest. If EBU really wants to continue down the path of online voting, they need more than transparancy. They also need to be much better prepared.”

2 Responses to “Editorial: Online voting is the future – but how?”

  1. Joshua Mayne says:

    Nice piece.

    Was really interesting to see how online voting unfolded this year. Personally, I don’t like the fact that you can vote for your own country. This isn’t for ‘vote rigging’ reasons, but simply because a unique aspect of Eurovision is the fact that you must give to other countries.

    In theory, online voting is a great tool for fan engagement, but in practice, as you mentioned Steef, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome.

    • Steef Van Gorkum (The Netherlands) says:

      Hey Joshua, just want to add one thing to your commentary just to get things straight: in the format recently tested at JESC2017, people still must give votes to other countries. Yes, you could vote for your own country, but you had to vote for at least 3 countries, so that unique aspect of Eurovision stayed!

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