ESC Insight

ESC Insight
22
November
2017

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #3

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #3
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171122_514_JJBJ2017_3/escinsight_20171122_514_JJBJ2017_3.mp3

For the third and last time for Junior Eurovison 2017, it’s time for Junior Juke Box Jury and another collection of hits, misses, and maybes.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #3
with Lisa-Jayne Lewis and Luke Giles

Cyprus: I Wanna Be A Star by Nicole Nicolaou.
Malta: Dawra Tond, by Gianluca Cilia.
Ireland: Súile Glasa, by Muireann McDonnell.
Armenia: Boomerang, by Misha.
Italy: Scelgo (My Choice), by Maria Iside Fiore.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171122_514_JJBJ2017_3/escinsight_20171122_514_JJBJ2017_3.mp3

Categories: ESC Insight

22
November
2017

Taste Test: Hopes and Fears of Junior Eurovision Newbies

Taste Test: Hopes and Fears of Junior Eurovision Newbies

Why Haven’t We #Embraced The Junior Contest Yet?

Ellie: Ok Ross. Neither you nor I have given JESC much serious thought before, but now we find ourselves giving it a serious go for the first time. What’s your level of experience with it?

Ross: That’s quite right, barring the appearance of the winner in the main Contest in May my experience is zero. I tried to watch some 2015 Contest earlier and had to turn it off.

Ellie: I almost went to JESC in 2012 when it was in Amsterdam, but chickened out. I still don’t really know why.

Ross: I think if Ireland were to win I might go based purely on ease of getting there.

Ellie: Maybe we can talk through what is stopping us appreciating this perfect scale model of the grownup contest?

Ross: Certainly.

Ellie: I think for me, there was some discomfort that these under 15s might not be very good, and that I would feel really bad for them. I wouldn’t want to see some really young people fail hard on a big stage.

Ross: I can entirely relate to that view. One would like to think that those performers in May who may not deliver a pitch perfect performance can deal with it. Manel Navarro seemed to embrace his failure to hit the high note during Do It For Your Lover. If you had an 11/12 year old doing the same thing on the big stage they may not be able to deal with it in quite the same fashion.

Ellie: Some of these kids are really young too – last year’s winner Miriam from Georgia only had her tenth birthday the month that she performed. I think I might be underestimating some of them though – certainly a lot of the Georgian kids are stage schooled and might even have more performance experience than our pal Manel.

Ross: To be fair to Miriam I think we actually got to see just how talented she is when she appeared on stage at Kyiv. As a child I could barely muster a few words in French about what I do at the weekends and what my Dad did for a living. There she was presenting a link a show being watched by millions right around the world in perfect English. It says a lot when she showed up the actual professional television host.

Ellie: Yes, clearly we need to watch out for Miriam and her colleague Lizi Pop when they’re old enough to do the main show in May. They’re total pros. That seems to be the case for most of the young competitors, but I would want to know that the contest and delegations have some thorough safeguarding and support services for any of the young people competing.

Ross: You’d surely have to assume each delegation should be providing some kind of support network to these young ‘uns. Again, casting back to the Adult Contest in May we saw exactly what can happen when a young performer doesn’t have that level of support behind them. Poor Blanche ending up pulling out one of the performances of the night given just how much she’d had to go through. Thanks heavens for Henric von Zweigbergk. It would certainly feel exploitative of these kids if there wasn’t a proper team behind them to ensure they can handle it.

Ellie: I think the emotional risk level inherent in the situation might be part of our woolly Western European liberal problem with JESC. We’re used to kids participating in TV in a different way. I can’t think of any UK TV programs that put individual children under as much pressure as representing their country on live TV. Junior Bake Off? The Voice Kids? Maybe?

Ross: No, there do seem to be some safeguards in place in the UK TV system. I bemoaned the over 16 limit to be a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire as a child, but as an adult I can make sense of it now. We do see very young contestants competing in shows such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent though. I believe there is a very low age limit on X Factor but you do get kids on BGT. I can recall one or two young contestants in tears trying to perform live on Got Talent, it is perhaps these performers that have influenced me swerving JESC in the past.

Ellie: That’s certainly a troubling aspect. But maybe our JESC apprehension is less sinister than that. Maybe we don’t expect the songs to be very good?

Ross: There is that. I tried to watch the 2015 Contest earlier (picked that one for Poli, obviously) and had to turn it off after five songs. I was tiring of wincing at these poor bairns struggling to hit high notes and stretch their voices beyond what they could reasonably manage. People struggle in the adult Contest too, of course. The difference being I have no qualms with criticising them. If I were to sit there and be frank with my opinions on Junior if feel like a cruel old bully.

Ellie:  I think I am worried that the songs are either going to be maudlin Disney ballads or variations upon hideous advertising jingles. But again, I’m not giving the kids enough credit here. They’re working with professional composers & producers on their songs and I just don’t think anything truly embarrassing can make it to the stage. Hopefully?

As an experiment, I’ve just put Portugal’s ‘Youtuber’ on.  This is the only one this year I’ve seen a lot of complaining about on social media.

Wow. I was expecting it to be The Social Network Song pt 2, but it’s actually quite a nice summery inoffensive number.

Ross: You could say the exact same thing about Adult and well, less said the better. This is probably one of the key reason why Junior Eurovision has never really caught my imagination, it’s not meant. When we get down to basics, this is a children’s show for children. The television programmes and indeed the pop music made to appeal to children and early teens isn’t meant to appeal to people who are one or two decades further. Unsurprisingly music made to appeal to a younger market would very rarely find it’s way onto my Spotify.

Ellie: Children’s musical tastes are much closer to adults these days though – tweens, teens and thirty somethings can all appreciate Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Zara Larsson, etc.

Ross: That’s true, in theory they can. In practice though I’m afraid I don’t.

Ellie: This is where we might get different end results in this experiment.

Ross: It would seem so, it’ll take something fairly special to get me on side. Saying though I’d never thought I’d break down in tears to Portuguese jazz. Never say never!

Ellie: Also with the homogenisation of the child and adult pop markets, we get to another of my worries about Junior. I really don’t want to see pre-teen girls dressed like fully grown popstars. The fear of Minipops runs deep.

Ross: Here we hit another reservation we share. Something like Minipops should be consigned to the past. Another one of our shared passions also occasionally crosses this line. I have a real love for Strictly Come Dancing but once in a while for Children in Need or when they have time to fill on a results show out come the little mini ballroom dancers in full dance regalia and full fake tan. There is something inherently creepy about children dressed like adults. Many would think it cute in a schmaltzy way but I find it nothing but uncomfortable and unsettling.

Ellie: It’s just not nice, is it? I know that when you’re a kid you can’t wait to be an adult, but I hadn’t realised when I was a kid prancing around in heels and mum’s lipstick was how horrifying it looks to adults.

Ross: But, of course because they’re your parents they have to humour you. Same as paintings on the fridge or homemade calendars with painted pieces of pasta stuck to them.

Ellie: I wouldn’t want to stop young people exploring how they want to express themselves, but I would certainly want to protect them from having that recorded for TV or having it pushed on them by a delegation head.

Ross: Very much so, it’s not about stifling young creativity but it’s doing so in a safe, non-exploitative fashion.

Ellie: So how about we make an agreement that we can stop watching and go and make a cup of tea if one of the performances triggers that creeped out response?

Ross: I’ve got another issue with Junior. Adult is a party for me. When I don’t like a song it’s time for a prosecco or a beer. Junior it would be a tea and a biscuit.

Ellie: I reckon that JESC calls for proper party food. Cheese and pineapple onna stick, party rings, iced gems, pickled onion monster munch. Plus lots of candy for the Candy Music.

Ross: Also cocktail sausages, hula hoops and a Colin the Caterpillar cake. Oh and squash, lots of orange squash.

Ellie: What do you expect to get out of this experiment of giving JESC a serious go?

Ross: I would like to feel the same excitement I feel for Adult. I can accept that the music may not be to my taste and I can accept that these talented young things may not be not perfect but I want it go to the voting and feel that same slightly sick to the stomach level of excitement I feel in May.

Ellie: I wish I knew some kids that I could host that JESC party I was talking about for. I mean, I can invite you round for a cheesy pineapple hedgehog, but there would be something slightly sad about that without any kids to enjoy the show.

Ross: That could well be a fairly haunting tableau.

Ellie: Regardless of the surroundings, I think we’ll have to go in to the show with open minds. I’ll certainly find that easier to do after a couple of years backstage at the grownup contest. I find that I can’t even be particularly harsh to the most lacklustre of ESC contestants – everyone is putting so much of themselves into putting on this show, and there’s almost always something to appreciate in every routine.

Ross: And if I’m truthful with myself I am being somewhat hypocritical. Especially somewhere like the UK we spend so much time have to convince family and friends to take the Adult Contest seriously and give it a chance so they can see it the way we see it. For me to then get to November and never give JESC the same credence there is a certain duplicity at work.

Ellie: That’s so right. If I can decide to not go out on a Saturday night between January and March so that I can watch every heat of the Lithuanian national final, I can give these talented young people an afternoon of my time. 

Categories: ESC Insight

22
November
2017

Junior Eurovision’s Misguided Adventure With Online Voting

Junior Eurovision’s Misguided Adventure With Online Voting

Once more, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest is tweaking its voting system. With a mix of testing new technology and an eye on the different audience demographic the Contest has, Junior Eurovision has never been afraid to try new ideas. For Tbilisi 2017, the EBU has opened up the voting to the widest possible audience, but not without controversy and risk.

Announced on the official website, 2017’s voting system returns to a 50/50 split between juries based at the TV studios of each active broadcaster, and the engaged public. But rather than set up phone lines in each country, collate these votes, and then combine the vote with the public, the public vote at Junior Eurovision is going to be powered by online voting, with no geographical restrictions.

Here’s how the EBU are explaining the process.

As you can see, the video explains the process for casting a vote. Voting starts Fri 24th November. temporarily closes as Junior Eurovision 2017 starts, and then opens again for fifteen minutes after all the songs have been performed live. You’ll also be asked to vote for 3, 4, or 5 songs, and in a change to decades of expectations, you can vote for your own country,

Presumably by forcing you to vote for multiple countries it means people will vote for their own country and at least two more. It’s a hack to get around the ease of avoid geo-blocking controls online, but it’s an ugly hack.

What the video does not explain is how the votes from around the internet will be combined to create to 50% public voting block.

The Online Vote Problem

With an online vote, the issue of discriminating genuine votes from those designed to pollute the final result is a significant one. But it’s also the concern of the EBU’s voting partner, not this article.

There has been an official online vote for Junior Eurovision organised by the EBU once before. Although it did not impact on the scores on the night, Malta 2014 saw an online poll to decide the ‘Online Song’ which ran live alongside the Contest. Unfortunately this crashed within minutes of the system opening:

”We apologise for not being able to count your votes,” [Executive Supervisor Vladislav] Yakovlev said today. “We were absolutely amazed at the huge increase in interest – we are sorry that the system did not work, but are also delighted that interest in Junior Eurovision from all over the world is so high.”

Technology has moved on in the intervening three years, so the lessons learned from Malta 2014 should ensure a smooth vote Tbilisi 2017. Of course if voting does crash during the live show, the votes cast before the show opened can be used as a fall back (before having to double up the jury vote).

But opening the vote before the show starts is a much bigger, and perhaps much more destabilising, proposition.

It’s No Longer Three Minutes On Stage

The change to online voting that starts two days before Junior Eurovision diminishes the value of the Contest, it increases the power of PR, and larger countries have an automatic advantage.

By detaching the voting from the live show, you weaken the live elements of Junior Eurovision. Voting will happen not on the strength of the three minute performance with live vocals where every competitor is on the same stage with broadly the same equipment. Instead people will be deciding how to cast their votes by looking at the official videos, artist profiles on YouTube, interviews on community websites, and online interactions. Arguably a strong social media game will be worth far more public votes than the ability to sing the song.

When your PR and marketing machine can offer you more votes than a spine-chilling performance, that can’t be the right approach for a song contest.

As an example, compare two of last year’s promotional videos. Georgia’s Mariam Mamadashvili  (the eventual winner) goes for a ‘stand in the studio’ approach, while Malta’s Christina goes all out on the production values and a studio-tweaked vocal track. Which would gather more votes? Given Mamadashvili won on the strength of surprisingly strong live vocal, the 2016 result under the new voting system would have been different.

The Competition Is No Longer Balanced

As contests go, Eurovision and Junior Eurovision have relatively level playing fields. Although the introduction of producer led running orders and a move towards a more visual style of presentation in the last five years has upset the balance, every performer had the same three minutes on stage, with the same cameras, sound, and lighting rigs as the competition. All performers were judged as equals – even if half of the votes were earned on the dress rehearsal, conditions were the same for every performer.

That’s not the case in this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

With the voting window opening on Friday 24th November, the voting public will now be largely guided by the promotional videos available through YouTube. That offers a clear advantage to a delegation willing to invest heavily in the video and the promotion of the video.

Naturally, the voting platform will not have clips from the live performances. Expect clips from the second rehearsal to be used instead… which means the second rehearsal is not a rehearsal, it’s a performance that will directly impact the public vote. So no pressure, kids.

Vote For Yourself, Vote Often, And Win

Then there’s the ability to vote for your own country – something that has never been the case at any Eurovision Song Contest or Junior Eurovision. That’s going to skew the voting numbers. I like that you will be asked to vote for at least 3 countries in the system, but the assumption has to be made that everyone is going to cast at least one vote for their country.  And that guarantees an advantage to certain countries.

Let’s be really generous and say that two percent of the audience at home votes, and that is distributed equally according to viewing figures. Last year the Junior Eurovision website reported 3.9 million people watched the show. If this were replicated this year, that would be 78,000 voters, and 78,000 votes for a home country. But more than half of the audience came from Poland – 2.2 million to be exact – so Poland get an automatic 44,000 votes out of the gate. Compare that to Italy, where the 49,000 audience would translate to a mere 980 votes.

If this happened this year, Italy and Poland would not be singing on a level playing field as the show started. Poland would have a huge lead in the votes, and Italy could forget about climbing the televote chart.

Even though each voter will be casting more votes, the example of the Melodifestivalen online voting that the vote stays clumped together without any huge variation. Assuming a regular spread of votes, there is every chance that a country with supporters heavily engaged in Junior Eurovision is going to be at a significant advantage in the televote.

Finally, pay attention to how these individual votes are going to be aggregated together. There will be no attempt to allocate them to the sixteen countries taking part (and a ‘rest of the world’ pile). All of the votes will be counted as one constituency, and the 928 points will be split on the gross percentage of valid votes from around the world.

It’s Good, But It’s Not Right

Since the first televote test at the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest, the public had always been involved with the result of the Song Contests at Adult and Junior level until last year’s Junior Eurovision in Malta. The smaller audience and occasional delayed broadcast time for Junior Eurovision have made the reintroduction of  audience voting a tricky proposition, and I am in broad agreement that using an online component to voting is the way forward. But the approach used for Junior Eurovision 2017 is unfair to smaller countries, distorts the results of the Contest, and puts too much emphasis on PR and Promotional videos than live performances and genuine singing talent.

Categories: ESC Insight

22
November
2017

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Wednesday 22nd November

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Wednesday 22nd November
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171122_513_JESC2017Wednesday/escinsight_20171122_513_JESC2017Wednesday.mp3

Georgia is rightly proud of its wine industry, and today we have been invited to experience a variety of Georgian Wines by 8000vintages.ge. Lisa-Jayne’s knowledge of wine comes to the surface, Ewan speaks to Macedonia composer Alexsander Masevski, and Steef van Gorkum joins us to talk about the first rehearsals.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Wednesday 22nd November

Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis explore Georgian wine with 8000vintages.ge, Macedonian songwriting, and the first technical rehearsals at the Olympic Palace, in today’s coverage of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2017.

Remember to stay up to date with all the Junior Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast for our daily podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

21
November
2017

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #2

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #2
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171121_512_JJBJ2017_2/escinsight_20171121_512_JJBJ2017_2.mp3

Time for our second round of Junior Juke Box Jury as we hand out the hits, the misses and the maybes to five more performers who will be tkaing to the stage in Tbilisi’s Olympic Palace on Sunday 26th November.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Junior Juke Box Jury #2
with Lisa-Jayne Lewis and Richard Taylor

Macedonia: Dancing Through Life, by Mina Blažev.
Georgia: Voice Of The Heart, by Grigol Kipshidze.
Poland: Mój Dom, by Alicja Rega.
Serbia: Ceo svet je naš, by Irina Brodić & Jana Paunović.
Belarus: I Am The One, by Helena Meraai.

Don’t miss an episode of the Eurovision Insight podcast by subscribing to the RSS feed dedicated to the podcasts. iTunes users can find us in the iTunes Store and get the show automatically downloaded to your computer.

http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171121_512_JJBJ2017_2/escinsight_20171121_512_JJBJ2017_2.mp3

Categories: ESC Insight

21
November
2017

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Tuesday 21st November

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Tuesday 21st November
http://archive.org/download/escinsight_20171121_511_JESC2017Tuesday/escinsight_20171121_511_JESC2017Tuesday.mp3

As well as attending the opening ceremony of this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest at the National Parliamentary Library in Tbilisi, the podcast team also took their first trip out to the arena – needless to say things didn’t go quite as planned…

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Tbilisi, Tuesday 21st November

Ewan Spence is joined by Lisa-Jayne Lewis (ESC Insight), Brent Davidson (EscXtra), and Richard Taylor (Eurovision Ireland) for today’s coverage of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2017.

Remember to stay up to date with all the Junior Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast for our daily podcasts. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.

Categories: ESC Insight

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