This upcoming Eurovision will have two Semi-Finals (Tuesday May 20th and Thursday May 22nd) and the final on Saturday May 24th.
The only countries that will automatically qualify for the Final will be the Big Four and Serbia.
All the other countries, regardless of finishing position at Helsinki, have to qualify for the Final. In addition, they will seed countries for each semi-final by dividing all participants into six pots, in an attempt to separate countries that historically vote for each other.
In addition, the Big Four and Serbia will also be randomly assigned to semi-finals to vote (each country can only vote for their own semi-final).
The resulting ten countries from each semi-final will be selected as follows: nine by popular vote, one by a jury selection.
While the topic of political 'bloc' voting has long been an issue, is this going to help or excerbate the problem?
Given this change, surely every country can vote in the final? What's to say that if, say, Finland goes through while Norway/Sweden/Iceland/etc do not - then what is to stop these neighbouring countries from giving maximum points to the country that did pass, not so much to subvert the voting system, but as a vote of No Confidence in the way things are to be done now?
In fact, if all countries can vote in the final, what is this change hoping to achieve?
There used to be the prestige in being in the Top 10 in that you were granted a placement the following year. No need for a semi-final battle. This is now no longer the case. If you come in second, pipped by a single point, you will need to pass the semi-final just like all the low-scoring countries.
While so-called bloc voting isn't fair, can we really say that this new method is fair?
The problem, and the massive disadvantage to the auto-qualifiers, is that they will have to fight against this and come through with a 200% performance in order to make an impression. Which are you going to vote for? A song you like from XYZZY that you might have ripped as an MP3 and possibly even downloaded the words, listened to a number of times... or a song from Germany that you heard once, quite like, have no idea what it is about.
So in this respect, the automatic qualification can almost be seen as a handicap.
Which leads us on to: The second point. Perhaps this is the time to end the automatic placement of The Big Four. I suppose it made sense back when, however the contest is something of a huge sprawling mess and it needs a bit of control. I joked about the planned American version with each state entering a song and how long it would take with 51 states. Well, what are we now? Around 45 countries?
To add to that, the auto-qualification seems to have added a level of complacency. One correspondant went as far as to say it is lowering the standard of the songs in the final.
Let's put it like this. If you are a Brit, take off the rose tinted glasses now. Assume there is a semi-final and only Western European countries participate and vote in it (hence none of that "The East hates us" bull. How do you think songs in recent years will have ranked? Based on the performance on the night, I think the schoolgirls (2006) will have got in as it is something 'different', vaguely risque. But Scruffy Keifer (2004), the big-your-own-innuendo "Touch My Fire" (2006) and Scooched Hamsters (2007)? Come on, those wouldn't pass a semi-final, never mind a final final.
The only thing that worries me about ending the Big Four Privilege idea is if the UK, who I view the competition from, decide to pull out. Okay, it isn't impossible to find an alternative, it just is a lot of bother for how I'm set up. And, besides, the BBC offers subtitled translations and no advert breaks. [but kudos to NDR/ARD1 for not showing adverts during their broadcasts]
Look, it seems the Balkans are the current 'target', so let's play with it. Okay, so Serbia is the only Balkan in the competition, the others kicked out at the semi stage, right? Well, what is to stop Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc etc from giving their max points to Serbia in the final?
Okay, let's roll with it. It is an experiment, it may work. I just don't see how it can...