Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mr. Lava Reports - Looking Ahead to Semi-Final Two

Blogger finally restored this entry on 18 May. It was originally posted on 11 May, then deleted about 24 hours later during a catastrophic Blogger failure. I have backdated this entry to its original post date.

In light of various performance catastrophes (e.g., “Boom Boom [Chucka Chucka]),” nine Eurovision competitors were kicked off the field this Tuesday. In theory, that means nine countries worth of people are not going to tune into the finals on Saturday. After Thursday night's second and last semi-final, a further nine countries worth of people will be doing something else Saturday night. Every country that fails to watch the final is, directly or indirectly, lost revenue for the Eurovision Song Contest, but of course, with varying degrees of financial power and a wide range of populations amongst them, some countries are more profitable to “lose” than others. So, by measurement of population alone, Turkey’s departure on Tuesday was the most disastrous. On the other hand, San Marino and Malta will be little missed.

This cruelly Randian financial logic is effectively why we have “The Big Five” countries, which are given an utterly unfair free pass to the Eurovision Finals on Saturday in order to guarantee viewership and reward associated investment. The Big Five are France, Germany (which would have gotten a pass anyway this year, since the previous year’s contest winner also automatically advances), Italy (undoubtedly seeking placation after a sulky 13 year absence from the contest), Spain, and the United Kingdom. These countries contain the overwhelming majority of Europe’s people and have decent to strong economies, which translates to more viewers and more dollars that ultimately wind their way back to the competition. In other words, the demands of the free market drive greedy/sensible Eurovision to adopt an unfair, non-competitive tack when it comes to dealing with the five biggest backers of Eurovision. This sort of paradoxical logic, where capitalism smoothly blurs into Animal Farm “more equal than others” non-competitive favoritism, is the sort of stuff that drove the trust-busting Republican Theodore Roosevelt nuts.

Speaking of curtailed democracy, one can make a compelling argument that this conundrum is why the jury system was reintroduced into the contest in the last couple of years (the official reason was to counter supposed “bloc-voting,” a phenomenon Big Five countries especially harped upon where countries vote in a knee-jerk manner for their neighbors). So, a chunk of the votes are cast by the people of Europe, and another chunk come from mysterious panels of supposed music experts based in each country, which I will henceforth call “Star Chambers.”

But we can boo and hiss the jury system and the Big Five on Saturday! I just wanted to offer you a little foreshadowing. Thursday night is all about selecting another ten delegations to send to the finals, an activity which, from Eurovision’s bean-counting perspective, also amounts to learning which nine countries’ TVs will be dark on Saturday. I’ll be watching, and will offer a complete synopsis afterward. I’ll also come clean about how well my own predictions went. I'm not feeling so confident about those, considering all the aforementioned weird forces at work!

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