During the 24th Ordinary Meeting of the European Broadcasting Union Television Committee, which was held in Dublin last Friday under the chairmanship of the director general of the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Bob Collins, the new format for the Eurovision Song Contest has been chosen. Sarah Yuen, manager Live Events at the EBU, reported that to us.
As a press release of the Finnish press agency STT already confirmed, the new format includes a preselection the day before the Eurovision Song Contest. This was the format most favoured by members who replied to a recent survey, conducted by the EBU, after a format consultant had suggested a two-night event as one possibility for change.
To keep everything easy to understand, the new format has the following concequences:
- The Big Four group, consisting of Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France, will stay assured of participation. To organise a good-quality Eurovision Song Contest, their contribution can not be missed.
- After the Big Four, the best ten countries of 2003 will be assured of participation in 2004.
- Besides the 14 countries assured of participation, ten more countries can participate. These countries will be selected in a preselection the day before the Eurovision Song Contest. This means that up to 40 countries can participate and countries have new chances every year.
All members may now send an artist to the event. The Eurovision week will be extended from 7 days to 10 days, to allow for extra rehearsals, but not all artists will have to arrive at the very beginning.
Broadcast of the qualifying round will be compulsory for those taking part in it, and optional for stations already guaranteed a place on the Saturday night. Countries not qualifying for the preselection final will be encouraged to broadcast the final, and take part in the televoting. The Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group will work out a way to make this practical.
There will be a rise in revenue, as a result of all participants becoming active participants from 2004 onwards, and this rise is expected to easily cover the costs of the extra programme, so there will be no increased burden on the host broadcaster, or member participants. This change of format will be accompanied by other developments which, it is hoped, will add to the quality, professionalism, and branding of the Eurovision Song Contest as it approaches its 50th birthday.
Critics already gave their comment on the new format. Some think that the new format will demotivate broadcasters to participate when their candidate ends up too low every year during the preselection the night before the contest. Others say the system is the most fair one, because every country has chances to enter the contest every year with a good song, which might be stimulating for the quality of the music.