Eurovision will now allow fans from non-participating countries (like the US) to vote

Eurovision Song Contest fans who live outside the participating countries will be able to vote for their favorite artists next year, for the first time in the contest’s nearly seven-decade history.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the competition, announced the set of major changes on Wednesday. They effectively empower voters while expanding the global electorate.

“Throughout its 67-year history, the Eurovision Song Contest has constantly evolved to remain relevant and exciting,” Martin Österdahl, executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, said in a statement. “These changes recognize the immense popularity of the show by empowering the audience of the world’s largest live music event.”

From 2023, only viewers will decide which acts make it to the final (as opposed to a combination of jury and public voting, which had been the case for many years). The juries – made up of music industry professionals – will still vote for the final, which will be combined with the result of the public vote to determine the total overall score.

And, for the first time ever, viewers who live outside of the dozens of participating countries can vote online using what organizers call a “secure online platform using a credit card from their country.” Their votes will be added together and converted into points having the same weight as a country participating in the semi-finals and the grand final.

Eurovision officials told NPR via email that a full list of eligible countries would be released at a later date, but confirmed that the United States would likely be included.

“It is expected that the American public will be able to vote online,” they wrote.

Contest organizers say they are making these changes now in part because of “the unprecedented nature of voting irregularities” seen in last year’s contest.

Days after the most recent competition ended in May, the EBU announced that it had identified “irregular voting patterns” in jury votes from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Montenegro, Poland , Romania and San Marino. Montenegro, Romania and Poland have all rebuffed the accusation.

An EBU task force made the recommendation after exploring ways to protect the integrity of the event. Organizers don’t expect the new changes to drastically affect which countries qualify for the grand final: They say in an FAQ that they determined which countries would have qualified from the semi-finals between 2017 and 2022 using solely the result of the general public.

“We saw that in almost every case, removing the jury results from the calculation, 9 of the 10 countries that qualified from each semi-final remained the same,” they said.

The song that made it to the Grand Finals under the previous system – which “would have missed if only the audience votes had been counted” – continued to finish at the bottom of the final scoreboard in most cases. , they added.

Organizers stress that many elements of the beloved event (which drew 161 million viewers earlier this year) will remain the same.

“By also involving juries of music professionals to decide the final result, all songs in the grand finale can be evaluated according to the broadest possible criteria,” Österdahl said. “We can also maintain the tradition of traveling across Europe and Australia to collect points and ensure an exciting voting streak with the winner only revealed at the very end of the show.”

Thirty-seven countries will take part in next year’s contest, organizers say. Its semi-finals and grand final are scheduled to take place in May 2023 in Liverpool, England. The United Kingdom ranked second this year after Ukraine.

While it is customary for the winning country to host the next competition, the EBU concluded earlier this year that Ukraine could not meet the “security and operational guarantees” required to stage the event due to his war with Russia (which organizers banned from competing after invading Ukraine in February).

Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian folk-rap group who currently hold the Eurovision title, initially rebuffed a determination that they were unfit but have since given the British town their blessing.

“Playing in the same place where the Beatles started will be a moment we will never forget!” the group said, according to the Associated Press. “While we are sad that next year’s competition cannot take place in our country, we know that the people of Liverpool will be warm hosts and that the organizers will be able to add a real Ukrainian flavor to Eurovision 2023 in this city.”

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James C. Tibbs