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ESC Insight

Wales’ Long Road To The Junior Eurovision Song

Wales’ Long Road To The Junior Eurovision Song

After five decades of attempting to get a place on stage, the small principality of Wales will be making its Eurovision debut at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2018. For one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom – which competes in the senior Contest and had previously competed in Junior Eurovision between 2003 and 2005 – why is Wales’ debut seen as historic to critics and fans alike?

The Welsh History Of Eurovision

You’d have to go back to 1969, when BBC Cymru Wales made an aborted attempt to split the United Kingdom’s participation in an attempt to allow Wales to compete. Another attempt came in 1977 when a young Pete Waterman produced a single he had hoped would get attention to be the first Welsh Eurovision entry, again this venture never made it to the Song Contest that was held in Wembley that year.

The Welsh language broadcaster S4C had expressed interest in a Eurovision debut as early as 2008, however with the BBC keeping a firm grip on the senior Contest the only way the Principality would get a chance to sing in a ‘traditional’ Eurovision Contest would be on the Junior stage (as well as participating in Eurovision Choir of the Year 2017). The United Kingdom, via ITV, last participated in the Junior Eurovision in 2005, before withdrawing due to low viewing figures. In the senior Contest, no more than seven Welsh singers have represented the UK at the Contest, including a victory from Nicky Stevens as part of Brotherhood of Man in 1976.

Here Comes Junior Eurovision

So what makes Wales’ debut entry stand out in Belarus? One of the main keystones is that this will be the first time that Welsh language (strictly speaking part of the brythonic grouping of celtic languages) will be performed at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

The Welsh language is still a huge influence in the identity of Welsh Music. Many of Wales’ major stars like Cara Braia, Super Furry Animals and Cerys Matthews are some of the names in Wales who are identified as making Welsh language music. Additionally, like Melodifestivalen and Sanremo, Wales has its own music competition ‘Can I Gymru‘ (‘A Song for Wales‘) which coincidentally was created as the National Final for Wales’ Eurovision attempt in 1969. Several winners of the competition have included Elin Fflur, Gai Thomas, and Cadi Gwyn Edwards.

Another factor has to be the advertisement and promotion that S4C have covered extensively to the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. All public transport in Wales have advertised billboard for the National final ‘Chiwilio am Seren‘ (‘Search for a Star‘).

It’s worth mentioning that when the BBC revived a National Selection show in 2014 in partnership with BBC Music, there was no promotion to encourage artists to submit entries and there was little promotion to remind viewers when the announcement would take place on either BBC Television or Radio. Instead we found out through the Press Association.

When ‘Eurovision: You Decide‘ was launched in 2016 there was little to no advertisement or promotion of the National Final in general, except in the few days before airing. In fact the last time a National Final in the UK was promoted heavily was in 2009, although as a Saturday night talent show featuring Andrew Lloyd Webber this is perhaps less surprising.

In addition to the advertising of the National Final, the Welsh language media have championed the entry ‘Berta‘ not only on BBC Radio Cymru, but also on Capital Cymru, the first time in years that a Eurovision related song has been given significant airplay on a UK based commercial radio station.

S4C have also given screen timing to ‘Berta‘ twice a day on the channel. Usually broadcast after the children’s block ‘Cyw’ and then before ‘Stwnsh‘, an approach the BBC has not done in years for its UK entries. Additionally, Manw has been given exposure on various different Welsh language programmes, including the magazine programme ‘Heno’.As the competition grows closer, promotional trailers for the event have received promotion on both ITV Wales and BBC Wales, why might this be? Well S4C commissions programmes produced by both BBC and ITV Wales and reserves the right to trail their upcoming programmes on both networks in Wales. On big occasions such as sport and music events, S4C will at least promote their upcoming event on an English language channel.



How Valuable Is The Welsh Entry For Wales?

Although S4C only takes in around 00.6% of the UK audience share – it does stand at around 18% in Wales. ‘Eurovision: You Decide‘ pulls in around one million viewers and the Eurovision pulls in around eight million viewers on BBC One. However, many of those viewers are watching for different reasons. ‘You Decide’ for instance relies in part on the popularity of the presenter Mel Giedroyc. Mel is no stranger to viewers in the UK, having earned the respect of audience alike from programmes such as ‘Light Lunch’ and ‘The Great British Bake-Off’.

With ‘Chiwilio am Seren’, the three judges were no stranger to Welsh television viewers or indeed UK viewers. Stiffyan Parri for instance is one of the more successful names in Welsh language television. Having presented a wide variety of programmes for both BBC Wales and S4C, including the Welsh language edition of ‘Mr and Mrs‘. Both Connie Fisher and Tara Bethan are no strangers to fans of the stage, having both been discovered from Lloyd Webber television programmes. Connie Fisher herself has established herself as a TV Presenter who has hosted ‘The Cardiff Singer of the World Contest’ and has established her own performing arts academy. Whilst Tara Bethan has maintained success in acting, appearing for four years on the Welsh language Soap Opera ‘Pobol Y Cwm’.

Presenter Trystan Ellis-Morris is also well known with Welsh language viewers for presenting the children’s block ‘Cyw’ and having also presenting the Welsh language version of ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’.

The four names who were involved in the National Final are all big names in Wales, which probably has helped in getting the promotion it deserves. But what about the Junior Eurovision Final? Eurovision night in May tends to pick up eight million viewers and S4C is estimate to pick up less than that, since only around 18% of the Welsh population watch the station. However, it’s worth mentioning why do these eight million tune into the Eurovision Song Contest… are they all fans of Eurovision?

Some are yes, but many are tuning in mainly for Graham Norton, who delivers his usual tongue in cheek commentary at the Eurovision Song Contest. Why do they tune in for Norton? Because Norton is the most successful television presenter not just in the UK but in Europe as well. If S4C are to get a high viewing figure for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, they will not only need to bring those viewers who watched ‘Chiwilio am Seren‘ – but also bring in the more casual viewer.

Final Thoughts

On Sunday afternoon, the fifty-year wait has finally come to an end. S4C is throwing its their weight behind the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, because it is Wales’ first attempt at making history at ‘Eurovision’.

Will it be successful? Who knows but with the promotion and advertising campaign heavily back by S4C I feel the Junior Eurovision will achieve good viewing figure in the Principality. And what does this mean for the Welsh language, could we maybe be seeing Welsh language entries making it to the Eurovision Song Contest stage in the future?

That might be a few years away, but I do hope that with a good result and good viewing figures on November 25th then come May we might have S4C broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest with a Welsh commentary team from Israel.

Watch Manw's road to Eurovision on S4C

Watch Manw’s road to Eurovision on S4C

Don’t forget to tune into S4C tonight at 7:30 for ‘Chwilio am Seren Junior Eurovision’, as the whole of the nation prepares for Manw and Wales’ debut to the Junior Eurovision stage. Available on Sky Channel 134 and in Wales 104, or you can watch it here.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Friday 23rd November

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Friday 23rd November

Second rehearsals are under way, the press room is filling up, and performances are being polished.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Friday 23rd November

Looking back at the first batch of second rehearsals. Tighten the camera, move the props a bit faster, and add a pinch of Fighting Talk. Samuel Deakin and Nathan Waddell join Ewan Spence on ESC Insight’s daily news podcast from Junior Eurovision 2018.

Now we are reporting from backstage at Junior Eurovision, remember to stay up to date with all the Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast. 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


Paths To Victory: How To Win Junior Eurovision Before You Start Singing

Paths To Victory: How To Win Junior Eurovision Before You Start Singing

As rehearsals continue in Minsk, the delegations entering this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest be considering the tactics needed to get the votes and the points that will win the Contest. Yes, Junior Eurovision is a melting pot of friendship and sharing, but we do keep score.

Following on from our look at the strategies to win the Adult Contest, what unique challenges feature in Junior Eurovision?

Once more, let’s remember the first principles. You win the Junior Eurovision Song Contest by scoring more points than any other song in that year’s Contest. It does’t matter if these are all points from the jury, all from the televote, or (more likely) from a mix of the two. Points are points.

How Many Points Do You Need?

Our analysis of the Adult contest suggests that ‘half the maximum number of points plus one’ is the finishing line in May. Junior Eurovision has a smaller competitive field, and like any Contest, each year is unique. But a look back at previous Junior years shows that scoring half of your maximum available points will put you in the mix for winning… because of the smaller field at Junior it’s common for second (and sometimes third) placed songs to pass the halfway mark as well.

Junior Eurovision winning points table (Ewan Spence)

Junior Eurovision winning points table (Ewan Spence)

This year there are twenty countries entering the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. That means nineteen juries are handing out votes (as you cannot vote for yourself). The maximum jury score is 228 points. The televote winning threshold is harder to calculate, as there is just one voting constituency (the world) and the Eurovision points are allocated on a percentage of votes cast. It’s also been used once before, in 2017, so there’s not a huge amount of data to work on – The Netherlands won the 2017 televote with 112 points out of a worldwide total of 929 points, but if we look at the more traditional jury vote there was a maximum of 180 points on offer, offering a midway point of 90 points. Translate that to the televote and The Netherlands scores 112 (over the 90 point mark) while Italy in second place scored 81 points.

In a blatant piece of theorising, I’m going to take the finishing line to be the fifty percent of available points in the jury vote, and a similar amount as the televote threshold, as the winning line of Junior Eurovision 2018, plus one.

We’re looking for 229 points to grab the victory.

The Two Sides Of Junior Eurovision

The jury side and the televote side of Junior Eurovision are completely split. There is nothing the jury can do to influence the televise, or vice versa. You can easily sweep the board with the jury, have a tiny showing in the televote, but still come home with the trophy. Songs can be tailored towards the jury, and in previous years there has been a clear bias by Junior jurors to reward technical singing and performance skill.

But what are the public looking for? This is where Junior Eurovision does something different to its older sibling. As previously explained here on ESC Insight the televote is not bound by country, it is a single region and the Eurovision points will be shared out according to the percentage of the votes cast. Of critical importance is that you can vote for your own country. Polish fans of Roksana Węgiel – and there are quite a few, she has over 121,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 8 million views on her lead video – can all vote for ‘Anyone I Want To Be’. And they don’t need to wait for Junior Eurovision to start, the televoting lines open up 48 hours before the show starts on Friday 23rd.

A glance at the current viewing figures of the official video clips shows a huge disparity. Wegiel’s video is currently sitting on 1.4 million views, while Bojana Radovanović’s ‘Svet‘ is on 65 thousand views. There is a huge disparity between the songs online performance, and that’s down to their personal fanbases.

An act with a strong following on social media that can motivate their fan base to get up and vote (and encourage others to vote) will have a notable impact on the final result. While there will be a component of Sunday’s show to attract new voters, it could be that the televote is effectively decided by the time ‘Te Duem’ rings out to open up Minsk 2018.

Arguably the music videos are for the televote, the stage performance is purely for the jurors to watch on the Saturday dress rehearsal/jury final, and the Sunday show is for pride. But if the music video is key to unlocking your televote, then delegations that can afford higher production values and increased marketing budgets have a distinct advantage.

One example in the difference in presentation can be seen between The Netherlands and Kazakhstan. Max And Sam’s official video is an edited version of the National Final performance, while Daneliya Tuleshova’s video (and Kazakhstan’s debut at Junior Eurovision) replicates some of the glorious excess witnessed by the rock bands of the eighties and nineties.

All of this is talking about victory in the final score table, but there are other ways to ‘win’ at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. From the step forward for a performer’s career, to the presence of a country on the international stage, Junior Eurovision can be the starting point for many new adventures.

We’ll explore those tomorrow.

Categories: ESC Insight


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Thursday 22nd November

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Thursday 22nd November

All twenty countries have been on stage in the Minsk Arena, running through the performances for this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. They’ll each have one more open rehearsal slot on stage, before the full dress rehearsals start on Saturday.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Thursday 22nd November

Grimdark, Future Noir, Mad Max, and The Mysterious Cities Of Gold. All that and more as Ewan Spence, Sharleen Wright, and Richard Taylor review the second half of first rehearsal in Minsk at Junior Eurovision 2018.

Now we are reporting from backstage at Junior Eurovision, remember to stay up to date with all the Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast. 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


Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Wednesday 21st November

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Wednesday 21st November

ESC Insight is on the ground in Belarus for this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Before the  rehearsals start, there’s the official opening ceremony to cover, discussions over the running order, and an illustration of how Eurovision sometimes does not fully capture an artist’s power.

Eurovision Insight Podcast: Daily News From Minsk, Wednesday 21st November

A joyous show of lights, a delightful wall of sound, and a medium sized Parisian bench Ewan Spence, Sharleen Wright, and Richard Taylor review the first rehearsals in Minsk at Junior Eurovision 2018.

Now we are reporting from backstage at Junior Eurovision, remember to stay up to date with all the Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast. 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


Junior Eurovision Voting’s Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities

Junior Eurovision Voting’s Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities

How We Decide The Winner

To a regular viewer of the Eurovision Song Contest, the voting system in place for Junior Eurovision is incredibly familiar. The voting is be revealed in two parts. Firstly there will be spokespeople from each country presenting how their country voted. This part of the vote has been decided by a jury of five people. Three of those people are music industry professionals and two of those are aged ten to fifteen.

They even give douze points to their favourite. So much, so similar.

The last half of the points is presented in one big block, but isn’t made up from a combination of the cross-continental televote. Instead it comes from an online vote. The way the online vote works is that from the Friday before the show until the show begins visitors to can access a special voting page. Here they can cast their vote with two unique differences. They can only vote for between three to five songs and can vote for the country they are voting from.

Voting re-opens after all songs have been performed for a window of about fifteen minute and these votes are added to those previously cast. The final results are converted into points based on the percentages of votes cast.

Junior Eurovision in the last decade has been a source of innovation, a place for the EBU to trial and test new ideas, with kids’ juries, juries in the arena, and the now steadfast 50/50 voting split which began in 2008. Online voting is definitely a creative step into the 21st century, but how does this compare in practice to a good old televote?


One Time That Fits All

Junior Eurovision, this year with a record twenty entrants, covers vast distances from east to west from Ireland and Portugal to Kazakhstan and Australia.

The chance of finding a timezone capable of staging a televote for a children’s television show? Pretty much as close to zero as possible.

One key benefit of the online vote is that it starts from two days before the show, meaning there is ample time wherever you are in the world to click on the link and cast your vote. This is great for getting potential viewers engaged even before the show broadcasts and extends the reach that Junior Eurovision can have.

There’s also another benefit in that it means Junior Eurovision can reach out beyond the twenty countries that compete this year. Countries such as Spain and Croatia, previous winners that no longer take part, can still give their Junior Eurovision fans an opportunity to engage and vote for their favourites.

Online Voting Doesn’t Cost A Thing

Televoting prices across Europe range quite a surprisingly large amount depending on which country you are voting in, I’ve seen prices in Denmark at around ten eurocents but Malta is ten times more than that.

Cost can be a barrier to getting your democratic voice heard. A free-to-use platform should in theory encourage a more representative result.

Another benefit is that it can be linked in very easily from social media. Online voting is easier because all you have to do to vote is follow a shared link. Televoting requires you to remember or write down the number, come off whatever app your are using and head into your SMS or call system. That extra step is also a small hurdle that some people would not cross.

Reducing The Power Of The ‘Bloc’

With online voting there comes the extra possibility to limit the number of votes given. The lower limit of 3 and upper limit of 5 seem arbitary at first glance, but do seem to be completely sensible limits.

Forever it has seemed that the Eurovision Song Contest has been dogged by political voting, regional voting, diaspora voting. Whatever one calls it, people always find ways to complain that X country always votes for country Y.

In Junior Eurovision one may vote for their own country. They may also vote for a country they come from or border or any of that. But they have to make at least one other choice. Excepting those young people with more passports than one can fit into your Ryanair hand luggage at least one of those votes has to be for a different country.

The beauty here is that for every vote for your own country, or your diaspora country or whatever – you also need to make a vote for somebody else that you want to support. By spreading out this love we can make the Junior Eurovision voting more reflective of who people believe to be best.


The Voting For Yourself

One of the dilemmas that this voting system creates is the ability to vote for your own country. One big fear of such a system is that it means countries with far higher populations will score higher.

The data from last year however does not suggest that countries with a bigger population do better in the online vote. The below graph plots online voting score (X value) against population (Y value) and you can see relatively little correlation between the two. Russia, the eventual winner, only placed sixth in the online vote despite being over 100 times the population of Malta, the online vote’s runner-up.

The above graph plots population against online vote from Junior Eurovision 2017. The correlation is very weak between both variables.

It is likely more important how popular Junior Eurovision is in the country that you are watching in. This is especially true with many larger nations sidelining the show to dedicated children’s channels with a smaller audience.

I have previously been on the ground in Malta for both their Junior Eurovision hostings and I can safely say that no collective country is more Junior Eurovision mad than the little Mediterreanean island. The Dutch boy band Fource dominated online voting, but had at their disposal a big following from Dutch TV and on social media after plenty of airtime following their journey to Tbilisi.

Even before hearing the song many Junior Eurovision fans are tipping Poland’s chances of success. Poland’s representative Roksana Węgiel’s Instagram followers total over a whopping 242,000. By being able to vote for your own country allows all of Roksana’s followers to support her in her quest for the title.

50/50 Voting In Name Only

One potential balancing act to this though is the nature of the online vote. Each time you vote you have to choose between three to five countries. The results of this is that your voice is spread across a larger spread of options. This voting is not ranked, so your favourite song would get the same number of votes as your third, fourth or fifth favourite when you vote. This makes more songs cluster in votes around the middle of the scoreboard.

The below box-and-whisker-plot shows the differences between last year’s jury voting and online voting. The jury votes have a much wider range of scores – bottom placed Cyprus scored 5 points and jury winner Georgia took 143. The online vote scores ranged from 35 to 112.

The box and whisker plot shows the much smaller range of scoring with the online vote compared to the jury vote

This is far from likely to be a one-year trend, and as Melodifestivalen fans will know the App system used in recent years has led to a similarly small spread of votes from the public. It may be 50/50 in terms of the total number of votes, but the reality is that the jury show is significantly more important.

It’s also really boring. Even those without A grades in maths it’s easy to recognise that last year there was no chance of Malta and the Netherlands catching Russia for the victory, there wasn’t enough points left on the table. The whole idea of the modern presentation of jury and televotes in the Eurovision Song Contest is that it heightens the suspense and the drama, always ending on a cliffhanger. However in the Eurovision Song Contest usually it is the televotes that are more diverse than the jury results, which makes that last reveal exciting. In Junior Eurovision more often than not the final minutes of voting will appear as a damp squib.

Does the performance actually matter?

With a voting system giving more variance to the jury vote during the Saturday rehearsal, and the ability to vote for your own country – how much is the Sunday performance worth on the final leaderboard?

Due to the fact that online voting is open before the voting period is very possible we could have a winner of the show decided before the sun rises in Minsk on Sunday morning. In one sense there is the safety net for the children that not everything is relying on one pressure-filled performance.

However we all know through Eurovision history there are songs that work really well on radio or music video format that just don’t translate across to the stage. Such songs have an advantage in modern Junior Eurovision, and I question if that change in direction is a positive step. A song winning on November 25th that doesn’t work well on the stage might open the question on this balance again.

Opportunities For Improvement

Rehearsal Clips Are The Real Deal

One issue with the online vote being taken before the show is that the performances used for people to choose from are taken from the rehearsal footage.

On the official YouTube channel from last year you can find one performance of the full song from the first rehearsal recorded from cameras not used in the TV broadcast. In addition there is a one minute section from the second rehearsal taken from the TV broadcast feed, and when viewers log in to vote they are shown a short recap of all the competing entries.

The problem is that they are all rehearsal footage. We are watching and judging practice performances. Camera shots show empty arenas and metal barriers rather than the rainbow cacophony of colour a Junior Eurovision audience creates.

It somehow feels wrong that a practice performance should be used for judging a show. I fully recognise that there isn’t another alternative with the earlier online vote (it is a more level playing field than showing music video clips would be, for example), but for both the kids and the voters using these performances is clunky at best, with the performances not yet tweaked to 100%.

Where an opportunity could lie is to change which performance is voted on, by reducing the voting window prior to the show to 24 hours. This means that the show rehearsal on which the Jury bases its decisions on is also open to the public to make its judgement on.  There is the concern that it would add pressure to the performer, but it also ensures the artist has had the chance to take advantage of the more informal rehearsal period to tweak the staging and camera work away from the many eyes of the world.

The Contest Where Online Voting Failed

Last year in Tbilisi was, and is remembered as, ’the Contest where online voting failed’. As soon as the voting window was open after the show social media erupted with fans worldwide unable to log in and cast their votes.

I was one of those back home frantically refreshing only to be greeted with blank screens ad finitium.

Voting not possible for me after the live show in Tbilisi last year

Yes, the online vote that was recorded was deemed ’valid’ by the EBU, and plenty of votes were recorded before the show itself. However the comments during the show of ‘we have experience some problems with the online voting, but we are checking’ was never going to be enough to appease viewers at home. It appeared like it was an inconvenience, when instead the voting itself should be the competition’s most sacred factor.

While one can argue it is no surprise to see the same system return for 2018, the EBU’s press release about the format does not highlight any measures made to ensure no problems arise this year.

There will be question marks about whether this will happen again or not this until the voting window opens on Sunday November 25th.  Clearly the opportunity here is to demonstrate that they have learned from previous issues and can reassure viewers of the integrity of the voting system, as well as delegations and artists in Minsk more confident of its reliability.

In Conclusion

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest is a place where things should be tested and new innovations should be trialled. Online voting is a revolutionary idea. It is a step in a new brave direction. And mistakes are going to happen in using new technology. I don’t object to taking those risks.

Were these puzzled looks from the green room our artists in bemusement at being unable to vote? (Photo: Thomas Hanses, EBU)

The impression the voting system has on the artists involved is my biggest concern. I am thirty years old now. Gone is much of my idealism about fairness and equality. Maturity has helped me understand how much the world works and how much people make decisions with hands tied behind their back.

I didn’t think like that as a teenager, you probably didn’t either. As we age human beings look to rationalise the ”unfair” around them.  Younger children are more likely to create a fairness that is equal, and as we age we allow social conditions, such as the value of somebody, decide who gets what rewards.

Online voting allows those with more home support to flourish on the leaderboard. Judging before the live show makes it harder for your performance to sway opinion, so the young people on stage may give the performance of their life on Sunday November 25th and it may make zero impact on the final vote.

Yes, we should use Junior Eurovision for innovation at all levels. However it is a show aimed at younger people, and younger people demand a higher level of fairness and equality than anybody else.

Categories: ESC Insight

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