07 May 2007

Eurovision 2007 is coming

The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union, is coming again! This year the semi-final and the final will be held on the 10th and the 12th of May respectively in Helsinki and telecast by Finland's national broadcasting company Yleisradio Oy.

The contest started in 1956 and has been telecast every year, but I only came to know it in 2001 when I first visit the British Isles. Although it has been transmitted far beyond European borders to North America and some countries in Mideast, Asia and Australasia, unfortunately it has never been shown in Taiwan.

There are 42 participating countries in the 2007 Contest. The so-called 'Big 4', which includes France, Germany, Spain and the UK, the four major financial contributors to the EBU, and the top 10 placed countries from the 2006 final will automatically qualify for this year's final. The other 28 countries will compete in the semi-final on the 10th of May for another 10 places to enter the final. Therefore, a total of 24 countries will be vying for the trophy on the 12th of May.

I suppose my European colleagues and friends will definitely know very well about the Contest but friends from other part of the world, for example my homeland Taiwan where Eurovision has never been broadcast, probably would be interested in how to decide who the winner is.

The winner of the Eurovision is determined by a voting system similar to the Borda count. Both in the semi-final and in the final each participating country will vote for their top 10 contestants, excluding themselves, by assigning 12 points to their favourite, 10 points to their second favourite and 8 down to 1 point to their third to tenth favourites. A country's set of votes is decided by the general public through televoting or SMS.

Interestingly, there is always criticism that Enrovision is just a political institution because the way a country assigns points basically depends on its political relationship to other countries rather than on the performance of the contestants. For example, Scandinavian countries tend to favour their neighbours and Greece and Cypress usually exchange 12 points with each other. Here is a paper from the Oxford University, titled How does Europe Make Its Mind Up? Connections, cliques, and compatibility between countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, which gives an analysis of voting patterns in the Contest.

Well, since I'm in the UK, I'll definitely watch the semi-final on BBC and the final on BBC One, just like how I would follow the Last Night of the Proms in September every year.

As my supervisor Simon comments that we can always see at the last night of the Proms how Britons are united by a musical event, I wonder if we can see at the final of Eurovision how Europeans would be joined together by a song contest.

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