Europe’s long-running and exceedingly kitsch pan-continental music competition has overhauled its voting process, introducing the biggest changes since 1975 in a bid to up the excitement.
The European Song Contest, which this year is being held in Stockholm on May 14, will now see votes split, with each country’s jury vote cast first. The votes from the viewers across all countries will be added in later and announced at the end. The new method will mean a song that scored badly with the judges could still jump to the top should it rank higher with the public.
In the past, the winner has often been known long before voting came to a close, but the new system will, organizers claim, create a “dramatic finish,” with the overall winner only known once the final vote is in.
“This format change will inject a new level of excitement into the finish of the Eurovision Song Contest,” said Martin Osterdahl, executive producer for the 2016 show, while producer Christer Bjorkman said it was about “creating TV magic.”
Known for its rather colorful musical offerings — think bands dressed as gypsies playing keytars or a group of Russian grandmothers inviting people to their Europop-fueled “Party for Everybody” — the European Song Contest launched in 1956 for members of the European Broadcasting Union. It later expanded and is now billed as the world’s largest nonsporting TV event.
The competition has never been short of controversy, with voting between nations often reflecting current political relations and various on-stage antics aimed at generating headlines, such as Finland’s 2013 entry, who kissed one of her female dancers in protest at her country’s ban on gay marriage.
In 2014, Austria’s winner Conchita Wurst — a drag queen sporting high heels and a full beard — sparked calls for a boycott from Russia.