Eurovision: Scott Mills praises Malta’s contestant
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Eurovision is set to hit the small screen tonight for the first time in two years, as Covid lockdown restrictions begin to ease in some countries. Although those organising the international talent competition try to keep politics out of the show, many viewers claim there are underlying dynamics which can affect the outcome of each contest. This year’s show will be the 65th Eurovision Song Contest, but many nations are still making changes to the way in which they choose their contestants and how they vote.
Malta’s contestant Destiny is now a favourite predicted to win tonight’s final, but the small country has never won the competition — it has come close, having placed second on two occasions, and in third place twice.
The 18-year-old — a former participant of Britain’s Got Talent — won the second season of the Maltese version of The X Factor in 2019, meaning she was chosen to be this year’s entry with the song ‘Je me casse’.
However, the voting system behind each year’s contestant was a hotly-debated topic in Malta before it settled on using The X Factor.
Back in 2017, the country handed its public a new power by enabling voters to choose their own entry during their national final for the first time since 2008, via televoting — a move not replicated in any of the other 42 countries.
Former head of press for Malta’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, Luke Fisher, pointed out: “On the surface a complete return to televoting didn’t seem like a bad idea.”
The Maltese public had previously been permitted to choose the song rather than the entry, but that had not ended very well for the country.
Mr Fisher noted how in 2016 — the year before the rule change — Malta’s Ira Losco only came 21st with Europe’s public.
She was supposed to sing the song selected for her by the Maltese televoters in the National Final, ‘Chameleon’, but she changed it to ‘Walk on Water’ — and subsequently no-one from her home country voted for her, according to Mr Fisher.
The change in song went against the public opinion and sparked backlash.
Writing for ESC Insight, Mr Fisher claimed: “That change of song resulted in a public backlash, knocking what appeared to be much larger political stories off the front pages in Malta.
“Moving to a 100 percent televote meant a more transparent process for PBS in that selection.”
However, Malta has a population of just 445,000 meaning there is a small talent pool and most potential contestants are already known to the general public.
Mr Fisher speculated that Maltese televoters already “know around 95 percent of the acts taking part before a single song is sung”.
He summarised: “That means Malta treads a very thin line between a ‘song contest’ and a ‘popularity contest’.”
Indeed, the televoting has not worked in the country’s favour in the past.
During the years where contestants were selected solely by televoting, the country came 23rd out of 26, and had two failed qualifications.
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The 2017 contestant Claudia Faniello secured zero points in the final having been selected by televoting.
Maltese broadcaster Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) decided that the 2019 contestant would be decided by using X Factor Malta to select the contestant instead.
This still raised some questions among Eurovision fans, as they claimed the talent show would focus on the artist rather than the performance as a whole.
Speaking to The Malta Independent Online, singer Brooke Borg said: “I think it’s good to try something different, there is no harm in that.
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“My only question mark is, if I was to be an up and coming songwriter or producer, how would I be able to showcase my style or music?”
Composer Philip Vella also said that focusing on the singer rather than the entire show had not secured Malta’s success in Eurovision.
This was not the first time Malta has altered the voting system either.
The public vote once counted as the sixth jury member on the panel which decided on the contestant.
Then, between 2005 and 2008, the public exclusively chose the song.
In 2009, a one-off format was briefly introduced, which permitted a jury to choose three songs for a Super Final, before the public were encouraged to make the final call.
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