Counting Eurovision votes in Cologne | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 22.05.2012
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Counting Eurovision votes in Cologne

The televoting system is one of the success stories of the Eurovision Song Contest. DW took a trip to the company in Cologne responsible for checking that everything runs smoothly on the big night.

European Broadcasting Union (EBU) decided that the public should adopt this role. But following heavy criticism, the jury system returned in 2009. Each country's vote is now decided by both a jury and the public in equal measure. The Cologne-based company has been responsible for the administration of the televoting system since 2004.

"Back then, the EBU decided to centralize the televoting system," recalled team leader Werner Klötsch. "This was for a number of reasons, among others, the wish to make the voting more secure and to always have control over what was happening in each country." Klötsch said the decision to use Digame was "because our specialist area is everything to do with interactive TV."

Tense atmosphere: Natalyia Tsenkova, a team leader at Digame

Natalyia Tsenkova, a team leader at Digame.

Real-time voting

Digame also manages audience interaction on popular German TV shows such as "Deutschland sucht den Superstar" ("Germany Searches for a Superstar," the German version of "Pop Idol") and "Who wants to be a Millionaire."

But on a European level, this type is work is far more complex. During the Eurovison Song Contest, viewers decide to vote for their favourite songs in front of their televisions. They can vote by dialling a specific telephone number or by SMS. As soon as the voting window is closed on TV screens, the team at Digame begin to collect the votes from each country. The points are then calculated.

Digame then notifies each country of voting results so that the TV presenters can read them live on air.

The SMS messages are processed by Digame in real time and the outcome of telephone calls from a range of telephone service providers from across Europe are sent to Cologne. All the votes are collected within a few minutes. German televoting experts can follow the process from the beginning and see who will be crowned the winner.

"Every result must checked," explained Werner Klötsch. "We have a routine to ensure the results which we present are accurate." On Saturday evening, all the results will be processed in just six minutes. "And we know who has won, but we're not allowed to tell anyone," said Klötsch.

Last minute preparations: The team at Digame calculates the votes from each country

The team at Digame calculate the votes from each country.

Future changes

This year, viewers will have just 15 minutes to cast their votes, the same as three years ago. The telephone lines will be opened following the end of the last performance. The adjustment is not the first, and won't be last change to the voting system, as Digame team leader Rene Klmiheit is well aware:

In safe hands: Digame are specialists in interactive television

Digame are specialists in interactive television.

"New ways for the public to interact are continually being developed. In the same way that mobile telephones have developed, the internet will also become a lot more interesting and I'm sure votes will also be collected online in the future." But first a way of providing a "secure and fair voting result" must be found. Without the appropriate security measures in place, Rene Klimkeit warned that the internet "is wide open to corruption."

How the televoting system will look in the future is of secondary importance for the moment. Those at Digame are eagerly awaiting the results of this year's Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night in Azerbaijan.

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