Can Eurovision be a Fair Contest and a Fabulous TV Show with the new Rules?

Can Eurovision be a Fair Contest and a Fabulous TV Show with the new Rules?

The production team of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest will decide the running order of the shows instead of the drawing of  lots; the Executive Supervisor of the Contest says the running order does not impact on the final result so the focus can be on making a good television show; and the Eurovision community are up in arms about changes they believe are to the detriment of the worlds biggest Song Contest. It’s time for Ewan Spence and ESC Insight to take a look at the new rule change, try to make some sense of it, and see if there is room for improvement…

Wednesday saw the announcement on Eurovision.tv that has led to a huge amount of discussion online. To recap:

The running order of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest will be decided by the producers of the show. The contest’s governing body, the Reference Group, decided that during its last meeting. The decision was approved by the Television Committee of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) as well.

Not surprisingly, many fans of the Eurovision Song Contest have an opinion on this, and have been vocal in their dislike of this change for the 2013 Contest. What’s more surprising is the reaction of the public when you ask them what they think of the new rule. They immediately think of  shows like The X-Factor and American Idol, with their lingering suspicion of chosen performers gaining prominent positions, manipulative judges, and the production team emphasising favourites in the editing process.

Is that  the sort of company that the Eurovision Song Contest wants to be seen in?

Wagner and The X-Factor

Wagner and The X-Factor

Changes to the Contest are not taken lightly, but through the last decade the rules have continued to be tweaked to try and find the best format for one of the most popular television shows on the planet. What impact this new rule change will have on the perception of the Contest is up for debate, but the EBU believe that change is needed.

To understand the EBU’s viewpoint, ESC Insight spoke to Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, on the issues that led to the rule change and the thinking behind the change.

This Is Going To Make A Great Television Show

Let’s be honest, opening this year’s semi-final with Euro-Neuro was bonkers, but it was not a decision that a TV producer would have made. It made for an inaccessible opening, and if viewers switched off that early in the show, it’s unlikely that they would come back. The 2012 Grand Final had a rather sedate opening, with three slower numbers before Donny Montell gave us a little spin. And as many have reminded us in the last few days, the first six songs in 2006 ensured a good night’s sleep for the elderly Eurovision watcher.

Rambo Amadeus (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Rambo Amadeus (Thomas Hanses, EBU)

Explaining the rationale behind the change, Jon Ola Sand believes that “a well composed program with a proficient mix between the different elements are key factors for a good result. That’s why TV programs in general are not made randomly.”

Looking back at the viewing figures in the UK, you can see that the number of viewers of the Eurovision Song Contest does not stay constant as the show progresses. It fluctuates throughout the show as people come and go, switch off, or remember that it’s started (peculiarly, there’s a block of people that seem to wait until the songs are finished and tune in just for the voting).

Eurovision is a living, breathing, television show. It’s clear that there can be moments in the running order that can cause viewers to switch off. By placing the running order in the hands of humans, rather than luck, these moments can be minimised and create a more coherent and attractive television event.

But the Eurovision Song Contest is more than a television program. Dr. Paul Jordan points out that “the event is significant in terms of nation branding and image building, particularly in the context of the return to Europe of post-communist countries” (“Nation Branding and Nation Building in Estonia and Ukraine” (2012, Dr Paul Jordan, University of Glasgow).

As well as one of the biggest television shows in the world, Eurovision rightly gathers a huge amount of expectation and examination. It has taken pride in creating a level playing field of competition within the context of a three hour television show. And this is where I think the new rule on the running order needs to be re-examined.

Why This Diminishes The Competitive Element

Contrary to popular belief, Jon Ola Sand told ESC Insight that “there is indeed no significant statistical impact of the running order on the result.”

This may come as a surprise to the many followers not just of the Eurovision Song Contest around the world, but anyone who’s taken a remote interest in the reality TV competitions of the last decade. It’s a courageous claim, and I was hoping that Sand would be able to illustrate this with the data provided to the Reference Group. “We can unfortunately not provide you with detailed televoting analysis, but I would like to point out that a similar principle is successfully applied at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for 10 years already.”

Jon Ola Sand (Alain Douit, EBU)

Jon Ola Sand (Alain Douit, EBU)

Outside of the Reference Group, there have been a number of academic studies looking at the impact on running orders in competitions, be they televised song contests, reality shows, one to one interviews, and judged sports in the Olympic games. Some of these papers include:

But if you want to look in-depth at the running order ‘s impact on the results, and have time to read just one paper, may I recommend “A Field Study Of Biases In Sequential Performance Evaluation On The Idol Series” (Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization (2008),  by Dr Lionel Page, University of Westminster and Dr Katie Page, University of London). Picking out some of the highlights as they would apply to the Eurovision Song Contest:

These results suggest that there seems to be an increasing linear trend such that contestants in the later  positions have an advantage relative to those contestants in earlier positions. The worst positions in terms of bias seem to be positions two and three.

Irrespective of ability, contestants who perform first are more likely to be positively evaluated than those who come in second and third positions, which provides evidence of a primacy effect. Contestants who perform in the later serial positions (particularly last position) have the largest advantage with respect to positive evaluations, implying a strong recency effect. The curve showing performance evaluation by serial positions is J-shaped for this dataset implying a much stronger recency effect.

Overall the order effect is very significant and implies that, with the exception of the first position, moving one position closer to the end of the show provides an additional 5 percentage point chance of being safe for a contestant [appearing in the bottom two in The X-Factor]. Therefore, ordering plays a major role in the competition, at least to discriminate between contestants close in ability.

Reading through the published academic articles and studies available to me, there is little doubt in my mind that the Eurovision Song Contest’s running order has a significant effect on the outcome of the Contest.

By placing the running order into the hands of the production team, the EBU have introduced a human bias into the Song Contest, a bias that has a significant impact on the final result. In previous changes to the Contest, the EBU has strived to be fair and equal to every country taking part in the Contest.

This rule change is simply not fair.

Can We Have A Good TV Show And A Balanced Contest?

This leads us into an interesting quandary, where the needs of the television show must be balanced with the needs of a fair competition, something that Jon Ola Sand is particularly aware of. “What does impact the Eurovision Song Contest as a whole in terms of ratings and televoting participation, and most likely the result as well, is if numerous ballads or up-tempo songs follow each other up.”

Junior Eurovision 2011 (Elke Roels, EBU)

Junior Eurovision 2011 (Elke Roels, EBU)

Let’s return to Sand’s thoughts about the draw and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest; “I would like to point out that a similar principle is successfully applied at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for 10 years already.”

This is true to a certain extent, but it’s not completely up to the JESC producers. First up, the host country’s position is determined by a random draw (the same as the new rule for Malmo); then the countries to sing first and last are drawn at random; finally the remaining countries are split into two groups, filling the top half and the bottom half of the draw; and the producers organise the running order of these two groups for the best viewing experience.

It’s also worth pointing out that of the nine JESC winners, six of them have come from the bottom half of the draw, and five of them have sung in one of the last four  positions. But the positions where victory is statistically more likely are determined by the two draws, for the opening and closing positions, and then into the two halves of the draw.

Drs Page point out the shape of the bias due to  primacy and recency effects through a competition is a J-Curve:

J Curve of Bias (Dr Lionel Page)

J-curve of bias in a sequential running order (Dr Lionel Page)

If we were to split the J Curve into a number of sections, then each section would have a roughly equal distribution of bias points. By tweaking the Junior Eurovision 2012 model, we could create three sections of the running order that are roughly equal in terms of good and bad slots. Yes, the third section would have a slightly stronger chance of winning, but this would be decided not by a production team, but by chance. Rather than the production team being faced with a list of twenty six countries to perform that night and deciding themselves who will be in the preferred section of the running order, performing countries would draw their section out of a hat. Then the producers would decide the running order inside each section. The Host Country’s position should be drawn beforehand, just as it is at Junior Eurovision.

The 2013 semi-finals are already using something very similar to this process. Each country will be randomly drawn  the first half or the second half of the running order of each semi-final (as reported by EscXtra) so that the delegations know which day they will need to be in Malmo to start rehearsals. Bringing a similar system into the Grand Final process would not require a massive change to the rules already agreed by the Reference Group.

This tweaked draw process would allow the production team to have the diversity of music required to craft a good running order which benefits and entertains the millions of viewers around the world. But it also retains a significant element of fairness to the performing artists, by adding enough of a random element to the draw so that the majority of competitive advantage is gifted by luck, and not the production team.

This proposal balances the needs of the competition with the needs of the television show.

Eurovision needs to be fair… and fabulous

Discussing the rule change, Jon Ola Sand stressed that “the ESC Reference Group are confident that both artists and viewers will benefit from this decision.” The reasons for taking the decision are sound and a producer-led running order would benefit the viewers.

The process announced on Wednesday fails to take into account the academic evidence of the impact that the running order has on the final result. It introduces a significant level of human bias into the Contest,  and while I have no doubt that SVT and the EBU will conduct the process in a fair and equitable manner, it does not have the appearance of being fair or equitable.

With a small tweak, the EBU could create a more transparent process that increases the quality of the television show while retaining the sporting integrity of the contest. That benefits everybody. It would deliver a stronger show to the viewers, it would treat the artists with respect, and it would be a result that people could trust.


31 Responses to “Can Eurovision be a Fair Contest and a Fabulous TV Show with the new Rules?”

  1. Philip Newton says:

    A good analysis.
    I think this change is one for the worse. Yes, we need a good TV show as the openings of semi 2 and the final weren’t great in 2012. However this is too far the other way.
    Sporting integrity has gone, and even more accusations of “fix” will flow.

  2. Roy van der Merwe says:

    Absolutely shocking that a few people in the production team can decide what is good television and what is not.

  3. Z. says:

    That’s an interesting proposal. My own idea is to let the producer arrange the songs in a cyclic order, then draw by lot where to begin. There’s no need at all to damage the fairness of the contest, and it’s irresponsibly naive by SVT and EBU to believe no future producers would abuse the power given to them by the new rule.

  4. David Mann says:

    Very good analysis Ewan – though I’m sure the talk of J curves on graphs etc. will bring back my recurring nightmare – waking up in a cold sweat thinking that I’ve got a maths ‘O’ Level to do!

    It may be a fair process – but it *has* to be perceived as being fair too, otherwise we are running very fast down the X-Factor road.

  5. Ben Cook says:

    The ratings go up and down a little bit during the songs but not significantly enough to warrant this change in my opinion.

    These were the UK ratings for this year as an example:

    20:00 ….. 5.9 (29.5%)
    20:15 ….. 5.8 (28.4%)
    20:30 ….. 6.3 (30.8%)
    20:45 ….. 6.1 (29.2%)
    21:00 ….. 6.1 (28.1%)
    21:15 ….. 6.2 (27.8%)
    21:30 ….. 6.8 (29.6%)
    21:45 ….. 8.1 (37.2%)
    22:00 ….. 8.1 (38.5%)
    22:15 ….. 8.4 (40.3%)
    22:30 ….. 9.4 (45.9%)
    22:45 ….. 9.5 (48.9%)
    23:00 ….. 9.6 (52.9%)
    23:15 ….. 7.4 (47.3%)

    I think if they are going to go ahead with this they should, like you say, at least do the same thing for the final as in the semis. Maybe at the press conference you can draw a place in the first 8, middle 10 or last 8.

  6. howard a says:

    Z – your idea of a “cyclic order” is completely brilliant and should be adopted immediately.

  7. Ben R says:

    Ewan,

    I was going to spend my weekend writing up a similarly scientific appreciation of the voting and draw my own conclusions, and equally I considered the idea of having a compromise section like you suggest. Thanks for doing it so I don’t have to.

    My concern after the initial shock is that this is ridiculous with a 26 song show. It would be interesting to see how larger the effect of being drawn in different positions is in shows of this length compared to Junior Eurovision and so forth.

    I have been there and witnessed this phenomenon myself – I was judging a school talent show and we all realized that the later performances were having the greatest impact – the draw was the factor in this.

    My main issue though, is that this manipulates the type of music we get in Eurovision. Watching Melodifestivalen in recent years there are types of songs that are always drawn last (Popular, Amazing etc – and when a song doesn’t fit this category it has usually been an artist of interest – Thomas Di Leva or Björn Ranelid – something of controversy in the local media), songs drawn first to warm up a crowd (David Lindgren and Charlotte Perelli had that job this year) and songs drawn second that are clearly not wanted to do well (Thorsten Flinck, OPA, Maria Benhajji and so forth).

    I have a song in the Swiss selection that admittedly is unlikely to qualify, but even if it did, I can imagine my style of song is exactly the opposite of what a producer would want to end a show. Countries are going to try and send songs that they believe are going to be good show-stoppers even more to get that draw position – and that worries me about the styles of music Eurovision will portray, adding an extra confusing layer of depth to the televoting and juries anyway.

    On a recommendation to EBU from me – get rid of any human interference in the draw. However, you could make it a better show anyway; buy having the draw positions for the final drawn out on the semi final. So as the countries qualify, they cheer, they run to the stage and draw the numbers out – and we all see the joy or disgust on their face as they realize they are 22 or 2 respectively. Now that would be a good TV show.

  8. DeeGee says:

    I agree with this analysis – although choosing a running order based on genre is logical it is inherently unfair and to deny it plays a role in results is as foolish as pretending politics is not a part of the Song Contest too. “Eurovision” – as the EBU are now officially called – do themselves a disservice by adopting these easily disprovable stances. Fairness, as with justice needs to be “seen to be done” – this system is a sitting duck for those who wish to find fault and blame when their favourite/ their country does badly. I think the idea proposed here is sensible. Have some element of a draw – early and late – and pick the opener and closer – then leave it up to producers to find the right mix. Arguably though the two positions you don’t want to leave to chance are the opener and closer though. Difficult business change….

  9. If you want numbers showing that draw order has no impact on final placement, please take a look at the work I did on this at http://blogs.windward.net/davidt/2012/08/02/dont-blame-the-draw-europe-was-just-not-that-in-to-you/

    thanks – dave

  10. Ewan Spence says:

    David, thanks for the link. 2 contests and 51 performances is a very small sample, with two data points on each place, and a scatter graph doesn’t really delve into the statistics. Dr Page’s paper goes into the analysis of 165 difference contests with 1522 performances, statistical detail, and has been peer reviewed before publication. Given the choice of data to ‘trust’ I’ll take the second.

  11. Rob says:

    Just so you know….no plots!!!

    http://youtu.be/-qPuwlFQoLo

  12. Great read Ewan.

    I’m astonished at the dismissive attitude displayed by the EBU. They’ve announced a drastic rule change without consulting either the fans or the relevant experts in the field.

    The running order clearly influences the result of the competition, and comparing JESC to ESC is just insulting our intelligence.

    The results are clear to see. The last eight ESC winners have performed from 17th position or later in the running order.

    The problem is that the EBU are now in PR spin mode and won’t back down anytime soon, despite the almost unanimous feedback.

    As commentators, it is down to us to keep the story in the spotlight until the decision has been reversed or suitably amended.

    Let’s maintain the pressure!

  13. Rob says:

    there is indeed no significant statistical impact of the running order on the result.

    This is a staggering statement from Jon Ola Sand, & 100 per cent incorrect.

    My income relies on analyzing all the variables at play at the ESC, & running order position is a key one, & part of the armoury of any successful ESC trader.

    Just visit http://www.entertainmentodds.com and read any number of past posts analysing Eurovision & other shows with a public vote involved in the outcome like X Factor – running order position has been shown, time & again, to be of vital significance.

  14. Ewan Spence says:

    Gav,
    To be fair to the EBU, Jon Ola Sand did indicate to me that the reference group have received data from the phone voting to support their case. Unfortunately phone voting data has never been released by the EBU, so it’s impossible to peer review this data and compare it to the studies linked above. And of course the exact JESC procedure is not being used at ESC.

  15. Ewen,

    But we all understand that you can do well from any position with a distinctive or radio-friendly song. The statistics do not lie when it comes to winning though, and as soon as we get one unhappy delegation crying foul, the whole competition will be turned on its head. If one of the minnows are disadvantaged by the new system, its likely they’ll withdraw from the in future.

    Furthermore, I’m fairly certain that regional diaspora will be influencing the televote statistics they’re clinging to.

    Gav

  16. Ewan Spence says:

    Gav, agreed, I was simply saying the EBU point, not agreeing with it! The Contest in the Eurovision Song Contest is a very important element for me, I’ve long advocated covering Eurovision as if it was a sport (and my head-space means NFL and MLB techniques and styles are thought of first, only then will the showbiz/celeb angle come out). Anything that diminishes the competitive fairness is something that personally upsets me.

  17. Ben says:

    The only time we’ll really be able to know if this makes a difference is when Malmo is over and we know who’s won.

    Personally, I think any attempts to blame the result on the running order, while hard to conclusively prove or disprove, will be hard to convince everyone of. In other words, I believe the best song will still win regardless.

    Betting odds might help prove that because the running order of the final cannot possibly play a part in those until its decided.

  18. Z. says:

    howard a – thanks a lot. Anyway, it’s not the only possible solution.

    Ewan, J. O. Sand referring to phone voting data is surprising me. These data can never be conclusive, since only 50 per cent of the result is determined by phone voting.

    What’s more, contest results suggest a considerable advantage for the last 8 to 10 starting positions ever since 1956, independent of jury or phone voting. One-third of all winners (19.25 of 57, with the four winners of 1969 each counting 0.25) have started from one of the last four positions, almost two-thirds (37.25) from one of the last eight, more than three quarters (43.75) from one of the last ten.

    The advantage seems not to depend on the number of participants.

    With 16 participants there were 5 contests (1961-64, 69), 4.75 of which were one by one of the last ten starters.

    17 participants – 4 contests (67-68, 73-74) – 4 wins.

    18 p. – 7 c. (65-66, 71-72, 76-77, 82) – 5 w.

    19 p. – 5 c. (75, 79-80, 84-85) – 3 w.

    20 p. – 4 c. (78, 81, 83 ,86) – 4 w.

    21 p. – 1 c. (88) – 0w. (The big exception: Céline Dion started too early.)

    22 p. – 4 c. (87, 89-91) – 3 w.

    23 p. – 5 c. (92, 95-96, 2001) – 4 w.

    24 p. – 6 c. (00, 02, 04-07) – 4 w.

    25 p. – 8 c. (93-94, 97-98, 08-11) – 5 w.

    26 p. – 2 c. (03, 12) – 1 w.

    There also were six contests with less than 16 (10 to 14) starting positions (56-60, 70), all of which were won from one of the last eight slots.

    I think, if the EBU do have some counter-evidence, they should show it to the public.

  19. Ewan Spence says:

    Ben, if we were to look at one Contest, i would be very hard to see if the running order makes a difference because you cannot re-run the circumstances. BUt we have academic evidence that running oder does affect and influence the order – that’s the reason that I linked above. Independent of our suppositions, Drs Page’s paper proves the huge bias that applies to singing in second place.

  20. Ewan Spence says:

    Z, yes, once you start looking at a significant data set the academic studies show clear patterns and links over ANY sequentially judged competition, of which Eurovision is just one. THere is a paper that includes Eurovision data (Bruin de Bruin 2006).

    I believe the EBY should release the data, for two reasons. The first is that this is a change that emotionally many believe affects the competitive element of the Eurovision Song Contest.

    THe second, and perhaps more importantly, if they have proof that the results are not affected by order, then they have an academic and statistical breakthrough that could ave a significant positive impact on the world. It would make interviews for a job fairer (by applying the process the EBU have to remove bias), it would improve the chances of competitors in sports such as diving and gymnastics… any task that is judged by others would become a farier and more balanced contest…

    If they have made that sort of breakthrough, it should be made public, peer reviewed, and published.

    If…

  21. Shevek says:

    Thank you for the clever analysis. I could not agree more. There is the urgent to need to balance both sides of the show: the spectacular and the sporting sides. This new change places too much emphasis on the spectacular side and it reeks of MF, which is a not good thing, imo. I sincerely believe that if this goes ahead, some countries will pull out of the show altogether. They can say what they want in order tp persuade themselves and others of their good intentions, but this will cast an dark shadow over our favourite show.

  22. Zolan says:

    There are ways to produce a balance of variety with largely unpredictable and fair procedures. I think they would be an improvement, except for the mathematical sophistication that would turn some people off.

    Some of the possibilities already suggested are reasonable compromises that avoid seeming too complicated.

    One issue that may need to be emphasised more is that deliberate running order management is likely to be based on a narrative dimension. That implies pre-determined roles for each entry in the overall dynamic.
    Even without placing entries in a necessarily ‘bad’ role, they could still be miscast.

    It happens anyway by chance, but it looks worse if it’s the result of deliberate action, and perhaps *is* worse because it’s constrained by the planner’s imagination.

  23. Robin says:

    Why is the EBU so secretive with their information? It’s natural to assume that they have something to hide!

    JESC is definitely a different animal and a daft comparison.

    How will the producers have enough time to choose the running order for the Final when all the songs will be known only late on the Thursday evening? In Baku the Azeri Producers would have had one view of what is a good running order to the Swedish ones so isn’t one team in the host country unfair?

    Also can someone explain whether a change like this will have been circulated to all the participating broadcasters or is this something that only the Reference Group decide upon?

  24. Stephen P says:

    I can’t help but wonder if the powers that be will ‘punish’ SVT by Sweden drawing the second spot.

  25. Nicky says:

    Ewan is far too generous

    “while I have no doubt that SVT and the EBU will conduct the process in a fair and equitable manner, it does not have the appearance of being fair or equitable.”

    They’re already telling blatant lies about the running order having no impact. If Italy and Belarus were joint favourites for next year’s contest with the bookies, I wonder who would get the favourable draw?

  26. Ewan Spence says:

    You can still conduct yourself in a fair and equitable manner, even if the process is fundamentally flawed. you’ll still get a biased result mind you. And yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your example, and there will be countless examples in Malmo. The EBU have enough common sense to know these issues as much as we do, so you have to wonder why they went ahead with this – the viewing figures (see above) certainly from the Uk don;t see to add up in terms of loosing viewers (and let’s not forget just how sunny it was across Europe during this year’s Final).

  27. Conor says:

    Enjoyable article from Ewan as always. I have to agree with Howard A – the idea put forward by Z of a cyclic order and drawing of lots to determine where to begin is GREAT. The best thing I’ve heard in this whole debate. A simple solution that allows organisers to manipulate a good spread of styles and strength across the running order while every country’s starting number is still determined by chance. Genius. Hope Z or someone has suggested this to the EBU!?

  28. Z. says:

    Conor, thank you very much. I’ve posted my propasal on various websites like eurovision.tv or eurovision.de, but not on Mr. Björkman’s Facebook account, since I’m not on Facebook. Whoever wants to spread it wherever may feel invited to do so.

  29. Ewan Spence says:

    From a production/performance review it’s a non-starter. There are certain acts that should never open the show (for example. Euro Neuro). The Opening and Closing songs (say that period of 2-3 songs) determines the whole shape of the show. For example do you want a slow burn opening or a crash-boom-bang? Do you want a melancholy ending, or something that builds to a crescendo? Should there be a slow coda as the last song after a huge explosion of music? The key decision on the shape of the show needs to be considered.

    If you’ve made the decision to go down the “for production reasons” and “the TV/Viewer experience” route, you have to commit to that 100%, and that means the cyclic idea, which solves one apparent problem, does not address the main problem.

  30. Z. says:

    First of all, Ewan, I am not opposed to your proposal of a segmentation of the running order, at least not as fierce as you seem to be opposed to my proposal.

    Concerning fairness, segmentation does make sense if the positions within each segment are similar to each other, regarding their chances. Since the last ten positions seem to be privileged, this suggests to me having two segments, one of the first sixteen positions and one of the last ten. Of course, if the J curve model holds for sequences with about 25 positions (the Idol shows have sequences of 13 or less, as far as I know [and I'm not quite sure if the concept of "relative order" does make sense, but I've only read the abstract]), then you have a point in choosing three sections. On the other hand, due to the recency effect which also holds within the sections, segmentation still allows much capriciousness, and the cyclic model is superior, as far as fairness is concerned.

    Now, it’s perfectly true that segmentation allows for the design of the opening and the closing of the show, what is ruled out by a cyclic running order. That’s an undoubtable advantage of the segmentation model from the design point of view. Nontheless, neither me nor you have “made the decision to go down for ‘production reasons’”, nor has anybody else, so nobody will “have to commit to that 100%”. The core issue is, as Jon Ola Sand puts it, to allow “each contestant to stand out, instead of being surrounded by entries in similar style or tempo”.

    This problem is addressed by my proposal, which allows to take into account any parameter you want in designing the order, the only limitation being the demand to close the cycle. Designing a closing definititely is a minor issue. The show doesn’t end with the last song of the contest anyway. Concerning the opening, I admit this is an issue, but I think it will be sufficient to declare the slowest third of all songs (or maybe the half) not eligible for the starting position. This will solve the Paradise Oscar/Engelbert Humperdinck/Rambo Amadeus problem without allowing any significant manipulation. So, the cyclic model would improve the attractiveness of the show considerably while doing best at keeping “the appearance of being fair or equitable”.

  31. [...] draw into ‘top, middle, or bottom thirds’ of the draw when the rule change came out (Can Eurovision be a Fair Contest and a Fabulous TV Show with the new Rules?), it’s nice to see that wiser heads at Eurovision are making a solid [...]

  32. [...] draw into ‘top, middle, or bottom thirds’ of the draw when the rule alter came out (Can Eurovision be a Fair Contest & a Fabulous TV Show with the new Rules?), it’s nice to see that wiser heads at Eurovision are making a solid [...]

  33. [...] There’s a lot of second-guessing going on at the moment, and once we know the running order of the two semi-finals is revealed, they are going to be discussed at great length online. That the human-led running order is going to have an influence on the result is something accepted by almost everyone – apart from Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand, who told ESC Insight that “there is indeed no significant statistical impact of the running order on the result” when we discussed the impact of the rule change in November. [...]

  34. […] Putting aside the issues of introducing human bias into the system with a producer led running order (which we at ESC Insight disagree with, but can sympathise with TV production teams on short term contracts wanting to exert some control over a live show), the focus on contrasting elements in a running order is at play here. […]

  35. […] a rough guide, we expect that the running order increases a song’s chances if drawn later in the show. We also expect that the running order will create a sawtooth effect to the show, where song genres […]

  36. […] in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Previously on ESC  Insight we have compared how the performance position impacts other contests with producer-led running orders, and before the final this year in Denmark gave our analysis of what we could infer from trends in […]

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