Photo credit: EBU
Malta are a proud member of Eurovision. They debuted in the contest in 1971 and have been regular competitors since 1991. Although they’ve had four Top 3 finishes, Malta has not won Eurovision as of yet.
Over the years, Eurovision has changed in various forms, one of which was the introduction of the televote in 1997 when it was trialled by five of the participating countries, meaning the public could vote for their favourite songs. Televoting has seen many countries have a change of fortunes. Some began to do really well with the public whereas for other countries, gaining televotes can be a difficult thing to do. Malta is one of those countries that has had a long history with the televote and many fans have said that they are almost “cursed” in terms of the televote. In this article, we’ll be exploring and examining Malta’s history with the televote and what this means for 2023.
Early Televote Scores
In 1997, in an attempt to modernise the contest, televoting was trialled by five countries, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The remaining 20 competing countries continued to use a jury – therefore they still had the overwhelming say in who wins. Malta scored 66 points finishing in 9th, but all their points came from the juries.
After the televoting trial was successful, many countries adopted it for the following year with Hungary, Romania and Turkey being the three exceptions. Malta at the time had their best score ever, finishing in 3rd place with 165 points (which was a big score back then). Chiara’s ballad ‘The One That I Love’ really stood out amongst the pop and uptempo entries that year and her stunning voice resonated with the people at home. Only 17 of those points or roughly 10% came from juries.
The Relegation System
Another new system that was created to cope with the mass of countries wanting to take part in the 1990s was a relegation system. It meant that countries needed to not finish in the bottom 5 or 6 otherwise they’d have to sit out the following year. This was then altered in 1997 when a country’s average score over five years was the factor that determined who would take part the following year. This system lasted until 2003.
In those years when the system ran, Malta had never been relegated once, unlike many other unlucky countries. Although this was partly due to Chiara’s 3rd place in 1998, Malta had a string of good results in the early 2000s such as three consecutive Top 10 results – 8th place in 2000, 9th place in 2001, and 2nd place in 2002. This meant Malta was nowhere near the relegation area.
Throughout the early 2000s, televote was still popular amongst the competing countries though some countries used the current 50% jury/50% televote system to determine their scores. In 2002, Ira Losco with her song ‘7th Wonder’ achieved Malta’s best position ever finishing in 2nd place with 164 points including three 12 points and six 10 points, all bar one of these countries used the televote in some way. The song really struck a chord with the viewers, as well as the live audience who gave it a big cheer. This shows that with the right song and the right performance, people will vote for you.
In January 2003, it was announced that Eurovision would include a semi-final for 2004 meaning that the relegation system would be scrapped and any nation that made the Top 10, as well as The Big 4, would automatically qualify for the final. The remaining countries would have to compete in this semi-final. This was a relief for Malta as in 2003, they finished 25th out of 26 scoring 4 points, and only 1 of these being from the televote.
One thing that was notable about the 2004 voting was that apart from Monaco in just the semi-final, every one of these 36 countries used televote alone to decide their winners, meaning it was more important than ever to stand out and impress the public. Malta passed the test and qualified finishing 8th out of 22 scoring 74 points with the song ‘On Again, Off Again’ performed by Julie and Ludwig. They eventually finished in 12th place with 50 points in the final which were just enough for them to qualify for the Eurovision 2005 final.
In 2005, Chiara returned with her emotional pop ballad ‘Angel’ determined to better her 3rd place in 1998 and she succeeded. She finished in 2nd place with 192 points, the overwhelming majority of points again came from the televote all across the continent including their only 12 points from Russia. What’s more remarkable is that Malta had a very early running order, performing in 3rd – but more on the running order later. Looking back at all these early attempts, you’d think that Malta has been relatively successful with the televote up to now, and Malta nowadays struggling with the televote would sound nonsensical. However, things began to change soon after.
One of the advantages of automatically qualifying for the final is that you don’t have to worry about performing your song in the semi and hoping it’ll qualify. However, a disadvantage is that your song hasn’t been “tested” on the public yet so you’re not sure how people will respond to it. Unfortunately, Malta had a bad experience of this in 2006 when they automatically qualified for the final. ‘I Do’ was performed by Fabrizio Faniello and it wasn’t a bad song, but it didn’t connect with the viewers on the night. When you have more participating countries, although it means there’s more chances of getting points, there’s also the potential of more songs getting points instead of yours. Fabrizio only scored 1 point across the remaining 37 countries who voted and that was from the Albanian jury, meaning that Malta scored “nul points” from the televote.
Malta also struggled in 2007 as they failed to make it past the Semi-finals for the first time, and in 2008 it was a similar story – even though this time there were two semi finals so it was fairer and easier for countries to qualify. However, many Western European nations, including Malta were upset over something called ‘voting blocs’.
While televoting gave the viewers at home the freedom to choose their favourite song, over the years it was noticed that many countries were voting for their neighbours in so called voting blocs. Examples of these blocs include, Greece and Cyprus, The Balkans, and the UK and Ireland to name a few. Although these blocs are still noticeable today, they were most prominent in the mid/late 2000s where many Eastern European countries dominated in the televote leaving others behind. While some neighbouring countries will have similar music tastes so it makes sense for them to like similar songs, this was happening year on year and it made some fans upset and frustrated.
The reason I bring this up is that, unlike most countries, Malta doesn’t really have many voting allies that it can rely on, therefore it makes it much harder for them to earn points. Malta’s closest neighbour is Italy and they didn’t return to Eurovision until 2011. Malta sometimes received points from Turkey but they ultimately withdrew in 2013 and haven’t returned since. The closest thing Malta have to a voting bloc is the UK and Ireland, as they sometimes give Malta a decent score with Australia joining the bloc for a bit after their debut in 2015.
Interestingly, Destiny herself also stated before the 2021 contest that Malta sometimes struggles with the televote because of Malta being a small country. In an interview with the EuroTrip Podcast, presenter James Rowe told her that bookmakers had her as a favourite to win and he asked her whether she had high expectations or not:
I am not expecting anything, especially not to win. I’m going there to give my best performance and then whatever happens happens. I know how small we are as a country, and it’s difficult when it comes to televoting.Destiny talking to the EuroTrip Podcast
Even with the few countries Malta has, it’s not quite as strong as other voting blocs such as The Balkans or The Nordic countries for example and in 2007, the entire top 17 were occupied by Central and Eastern European countries leaving many countries like Malta lost in the Semi-Final. Malta were so dissatisfied with the voting that it is strongly suggested that their 12 points to the UK were more of a protest vote because of their own and many other countries struggles to do well because of these voting blocs.
Things had to change drastically in future years so such a thing wouldn’t happen again.
In 2009, the Eurovision voting system changed again so that the grand final votes would be a 50/50 split between juries and televote but in order to get to the final, countries had to pass a televote only semi final. Malta entrusted their Eurovision hero Chiara again to help them with her ballad ‘What If We’ and again Malta didn’t need to worry and she finished in 6th place scoring 86 points Every country apart from two gave her points. But in the final, it was the juries that saved her as Malta only finished 23rd in the televote scoring 18 points, so even one of Malta’s biggest stars couldn’t save them.
The year after the 50/50 split continued into the semi-finals as well. In 2010, Malta finished in 12th place and the juries had them as a qualifier, but because they scored low with the televote, and other countries that didn’t qualify with the jury did very well in the televote, it just pushed Malta out.
It was a similar story in 2011, Glen Vella who sang ‘One Life’ finished 6th with the juries with 84 points, but they finished 2nd last in the televote which sadly dropped Malta back into 11th place overall with 54 points. What made it worse was Switzerland, the 10th-placed qualifier scored 55 points.
The years after were better for Malta, in 2012 Kurt Calleja’s song ‘This Is The Night’ did very well with the juries and Malta qualified for the first time since 2009, but it is worth noting again that he finished 11th in the televote meaning if it weren’t for the juries, Malta would have missed out again. Malta successfully qualified in 2013 and in 2014, but when you look in depth at Malta’s split results over the 2010s, it’s clear that the juries prefer them to the televote almost every year.
From 2014 onwards, if we look at a table to see how Malta have fared with the juries and televote, you can see a notable pattern:
|Malta’s Overall Placing in the Final or Semi-Final
|Jury Score and Jury Placing
|Televote Score and Televote Placing
|119 points: 6th
|17 points: 24th
|84 points: 5th
|32 points: 12th
|137 points: 4th
|16 points: 21st
|55 points: 8th
|0 points: Last
|93 points: 5th
|8 points: Last
|87 points: 10th
|20 points: 22nd
|208 points: 3rd
|47 points: 14th
|27 points: 12th
|20 points: 15th
Important to note that in 2014 and 2015 a different system was used where they averaged out the jury and televote results instead of simply combining the jury and televote points like in 2016 onwards.
Looking at the data, we can see two main things: One being that from 2014-2022, the juries gave Malta more points than the televote every year. The other is that apart from 2022, Malta would have qualified for the final if only juries were voting as they continually put them in the Top 10.
In 2019 and 2021 especially, Malta was tipped to do well – but as the results have shown, in 2019 Michela finished 14th and Destiny finished 7th in 2021, which are respectable results but they again struggled with the televote in the final, despite qualifying comfortably with them in 2021 especially.
|Semi Final Televote Placing Score
|Final Televote Placing and Score
|10th place: 50 points
|22nd place: 20 points
|2nd place: 151 points
|14th place: 47 points
One reason why this may have happened is because of the running order. Michela opened the show in 2019 and Destiny sang in 6th in 2021. Although you can argue that any great song can do well no matter what your running order is, a lot of people tend to remember the songs performed later. In Spain, the viewing figures for each Eurovision 2022 entry were revealed not long after the contest which makes for interesting reading.
This graphic may look confusing but if I told you that the first 5 songs that performed were Czech Republic, Romania, Portugal, Finland, and Switzerland and the last 5 songs that performed were from Australia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Serbia and Estonia, then you’ll be able to see the pattern. As we can see in Spain, millions more people watched the later songs with nearly 3.3 million more people watching the closing song from Estonia than the opening song from the Czech Republic. As fewer people watched the earlier songs it means they didn’t hear those songs in full and they’re less likely to vote for them. They would only be able to base their opinion on the 20-30 second recap video after all the songs have been performed. Remembering that Malta performed 1st in 2019 and 6th in 2021, unfortunately, this may have been the case here and is partly speculated to be the reason they underperformed.
Other reasons include that in 2019 and 2021, there were many big favourites to win such as Duncan Laurence in 2019 and Måneskin and Barbara Pravi in 2021 and unfortunately Malta was one of the unlucky nations that couldn’t match their scores. In the final, there can be discrepancies between the semi-final and final as there are more songs performing and countries have more choices. It’s a lot tougher to stay in a country’s Top 10 when some of the best songs are in the final. Another reason is the recap video, which is often overlooked but they’re very important in terms of televote because if viewers haven’t seen every song, they’ll be using that recap video as reference so it needs to be impactful. In the Semi-Final of 2021, Malta had used the bridge of the song showcasing Destiny’s powerful vocals and a cheering crowd which was very impactful, whereas in the final, it was mainly just the final chorus which was still good, but potentially not as impactful for the viewers.
In 2022, for the first time since the 50/50 system began, Malta didn’t qualify with both the jury and televote although they scored a similar amount of points.
What this means for 2023
At Eurovision 2023, there will be another rule change, although the final will still be 50/50, the semi-final results will be decided by 100% televote for the first time since 2009. Once this rule was announced, there were numerous Tweets wondering whether this would impact certain countries in a positive or negative way. Some fans were speculating that Malta may struggle as in recent years, they haven’t done great with the public.
This year’s entrants for Malta are ‘The Busker’ with their song ‘Dance (Our Own Party) and you can find out more about the band in this article I wrote about them!
They have good form with the televote in Malta as they won MESC scoring 80 points in the televote and their nearest rival scored 45 so the public choice was pretty unanimous and this is a good sign. We won’t know whether they’ll qualify until the Semi-Final results are revealed. You can hear their song right here!
To be successful in Eurovision, there are many reasons why the public or the juries may vote for a particular song and there are many other reasons the public or juries may prefer one countries song to another. Sometimes it depends on the competition, running order, the recap video used and many other variables.
Despite Malta having numerous low televote scores in recent history, in years such as 1998, 2002, and 2005 for example, they’ve demonstrated that if you have a good song, singer, and performance, people will vote for you, and it’s the same for every country taking part whether its the UK, Estonia or Malta. They’ve also managed to qualify from some tough semi-finals such as 2019, 2013, and 2004, especially where there were a field of 21 other songs.
We hope Malta can have more successful results in the televote this year and in many years to come!
Do you think 2023 will be a year Malta get a great televote score? Let us know in the comments!