Ending the Eastern Bloc Eurovision Will Change its Voting System

For about a decade, Eastern European Eurovision fans have voted in blocs, ensuring that five of the past nine song contests have been in cities like Belgrade, Kiev and Tallinn. Organizers say they will now add a jury -- and reduce the value of viewer voting by half.

Few television events in Europe are as popular as the Eurovision Song Contest, the annual music competition with close to 300 million viewers around the world which has launched the careers of international pop acts like Abba and Celine Dion. In recent years, though, the event has been reduced to an uninspired self-parody populated by drag queens, circus sideshow freaks and washed-up pop acts looking to revive their careers (see T.a.T.u. and Las Ketchup).

In recent years a viewer televoting system has also helped five Eastern European countries dominate the contest. Audience voting has always been regional and patriotic, but recent voting patterns have kept the contest's location from moving outside the former Eastern Bloc.

Verka Serduchka, from Ukraine, almost won the Eurovision contest in 2007
Getty Images

Verka Serduchka, from Ukraine, almost won the Eurovision contest in 2007

"Those who care (about the contest) will have had it up to here with the blatant political voting from the former satellites of the USSR that awarded this year's event to Russia," the BBC's longtime Eurovision presenter, Terry Wogan, wrote earlier this year in London's Sunday Telegraph. Wogan threatened to quit his job if changes weren't made. Eurovision, he argued, wasn't to be taken seriously anymore.

It now looks like the contest's organizers are taking note. On Thursday, an official with a public television station responsible for broadcasting the show in Germany said the organizers of Eurovision had agreed to change the voting system for 2009. Under new rules agreed to this week at a meeting in Moscow, half of the votes cast in each nation will come from a jury.

Each country's a five-member jury will consist of people "with a professional musical background," said Ralf Quibeldey, an executive at Hamburg-based broadcaster NDR, according to the German news agency DPA.

NDR hosts an annual televised contest to determine the German entry to the main Eurovision competition. Television viewers will still be able to vote, but they will lose half of their power.

"It's a good thing," Quibeldey told DPA. "I believe that the quality of the music will improve."

The next Eurovision final will be staged in Moscow on May 16.



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