Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vote, Vote, Vote, Vote, Vote For The Winners

Congratulations to Marija Šerifović for winning Eurovision 2007, as predicted and celebrated by the Serbian blogosphere. Šerifović said after the show that she 'hopes that next year in Belgrade it will be a music contest again' although - given the rock-chick and chain-mail aesthetic that dominated Eurovision this year after Lordi's victory in 2006 - don't be surprised if it takes on its own sideshow of a contest in fine tailoring and pseudo-lesbian dance.

Outside 'the region' itself, the prevailing frame for remembering this year's Eurovision is likely to be the east/west problem. The geographical spread of points is made particularly graphic at Diamond Geezer, but it's worth remembering it takes 42 countries to make a board-sweeping on such a scale. True, the Saturday top 10 of Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Belarus, Greece, Armenia, Hungary and Moldova is another all-eastern, all-the-time extravaganza (assuming one is happy to amalgamate such an expanse of overlapping cultural markets and musical influences into one 'east').

If East had really outdone West by sheer weight of bloc-led numbers alone, there might be aerious cause for concern, but it's more than a case of one bloc being structurally empowered to always outvote the other. Of the seven western European finalists, none finished higher than the Finnish hosts at 17th, and few even received significant support from their neighbours: no Belgian votes for France, no Andorran votes for Spain, and outside the transnational schlager union of Scandinavia the majority of western countries voted for a predominantly eastern slate.

What can't be accounted for under any nationally-based voting system is the effect of increased migration from eastern to western Europe: organised diasporic voting campaigns are one possibility, but so is the prospect that Poles, Serbs, Armenians and so forth in (say) the United Kingdom might be more likely to watch the show than the host population. (Or even than their compatriots back home?) Again, though, east/west isn't the only axis where this factor operates (those regular Spanish points to Germany mostly come from somewhere).

Nonetheless, it's perceptions that make policy, and the broadcasters who feel as if they have the most to lose are those from the former western European powerhouses of 1970s and 1980s Eurovision who don't have the Spanish/French/German/British advantage (or disadvantage?) of automatic qualification to rely on. Countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, or Sweden, the home country of Eurovision's current scrutineer Svante Stockselius, whose task before Belgrade 2008 is to balance the demands and sensibilities of the 'Big Four', the not-so-big half a dozen, the enthusiastic newcomers and a band of countries who would be horrified to find themselves on the eastern side of any permanent geographical division.

Given which, one can only wish him the best of Swedish luck...

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