The Eurovision Song Contest concluded Saturday night, with Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut winning the big prize. The annual contest was established by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) in an effort to bring together member countries of the EBU in post-war Europe. It brings together acts from 39 countries in three competition rounds, culminating with an extravaganza to rival American Idol. Since its creation in 1956, Eurovision has grown to become one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world, drawing an estimated 400-600 million viewers annually. This year, the contest also provided a bit of relief from the ongoing economic challenges facing many members of the European Union.
The contest is regularly plagued by accusations of political bias. While the contest now uses tele-voting rather than judges, allowing citizens of all the participating countries to vote for their favorites performance, several studies indicate that countries tend to form cliques that regularly vote according to predictable patterns. While countries cannot vote for their own acts, they often vote for performances from countries with similar cultures, languages, or histories. For example, since 1998, Greece and Cyprus have regularly given each other the maximum number of points. The expatriate population also affects votes. While countries cannot vote for their own acts, they can vote for any other acts. Thus large ethnic minorities or diaspora populations living abroad will often vote for their own country. This phenomenon helps to explain, for example, the regularly high-ranking given to Turkey from countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, where large number of ethnic Turks reside.
The Eurovision Song Contest also provides some insights into international relations theory. As an effort to bring together countries into a common community, highlighting the interconnections (and ultimately, the interdependence) of countries, the contest provides an interesting example of liberalism in action. Now all we need as a “Eurovision hypothesis” to rival the Thomas Friedman’s “Golden Arches theory of conflict prevention”: no two countries participating in the Eurovision Song Contest have ever gone to war with one another.