Disharmony behind songs for Europe

Continental divide: Swedes such as Abba have always enjoyed disproporti onate support from their neighbours
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The Independent Online
It is as the Euro-sceptics always suspected: the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the most potent symbols of a continent in harmony, has been exposed as a fix.

Behind the smiles and the "boom-bang-a-bang" lyrics which assiduously avoid political or social comment, judges vote according to cultural prejudice and geographical favouritism.

A statistical analysis of 18 years of Eurovision scoring patterns since 1975 has revealed evidence of widespread bias.

The study explains why some countries, year in year out, award "neel pwoint" to others, apparently irrespective of the quality of the song.

The researchers found that Greece never gave any "pwoint" to Turkey, which in turn never gave anything to Cyprus, which reciprocated the gesture.

Of all the participants, Cyprus awarded the highest average score given by one country to another ... to Greece.

Sweden's biggest supporters are Norway and Denmark. Denmark's greatest fan is Norway. And Norway's chief groupie is Sweden.

Gad Yair, a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who headed the research project, said: "The 10- votes system gives the impression of fairness and randomness but this is not the case. It is not a fair competition. "Some of the connections are political and some are cultural," he added.

The United Kingdom and Ireland, two of the most succesful Eurovision countries, benefit from their associations with international pop. The UK gets consistently high marks from Austria, Luxembourg and France.

But not everyone likes us. Despite the involvement of Bjork and other Icelandic pop stars in the British music scene, her countrymen are baffled by our entries and invariably give us nothing.

In turn, the UK judges seem culturally challenged in appreciating the offerings of Portugal and Finland. The UK prefers Ireland, Switzerland and Germany.

The empirical study found that a clearly-defined bloc of eight "Western" countries - including the UK, Ireland and France - dominated the competition because they "favour each other and export few points to other blocs".