The press conference of the EBU took place this evening, between the first and second dress rehearsals of the semifinal. On stage Svante Stockselius fielded most of the questions from the audience, and also on stage from ERT were the supervising Executive Producer George Houliaras and Executive Producer Fotini Yiannoulatou. After welcoming everyone to Athens, and commenting on the first rehearsal, he admitted there were still a few problems, but then, that is why they have rehearsals, in order to sort any problems out. There was a short promotional film, revealing some of the facts, figure and statistics relating to the contest.
Amongst some of the details:
- In addition to the 38 voting countries, the programme will be broadcast in Australia, Austria, Kosovo, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
- The semifinal will be 2 hours 15 minutes. The final 3 hours 5 minutes. Last year the final lasted about 3 hours 30 minutes, with the voting taking up 68 minutes. It was felt the programme lost pace, making it long and boring.
- There will be three breaks in both the semifinal and Final.
- The ten finalists qualifying from the semifinal will be revealed in a random draw of the envelopes. The ranking order will not be announced until after the transmission of the Final on 20th May.
- The reason for the additional draw for the voting order was technical, in order to set up the satellite links, it really is too late to do it on Friday, once the final running order is known. The hosts will keep the audience updated, for example, we still have 15 countries to go. It will also be displayed graphically, so the audience know where they are in the voting order.
- A maximum of 20 calls from any one telephone number can be made for any one song, although as many songs can be voted upon by a caller. This system is in place in most, but not ALL countries.
- The contest will be produced in HDTV – High Definition Television. But broadcast only in Standard Definition. This is because there are not enough viewers yet with HDTV, but it will be good to have in the archives as HDTV. Perhaps next year they will make the final step towards broadcasting in HDTV.
- Contest more popular amongst companies and sponsorship. 76% of the fees will be returned to the broadcasters.
- Provisional dates for the 2007 contest: Semifinal 10th May, Final 12th May. the reason for the earlier dates are because of other commitments, such as sporting events, holidays etc amongst EBU members.
- ERT will also present the winner with a limousine, as well as the awards.
- 14 countries will qualify for the 2007, just as it has been the last two years. Although changes were discussed, it was decided to keep it the same. This was due to logistics for rehearsals. The limit of 40 countries is still in place for the present.
A demo film was shown of the scoreboard and the announcement of the votes.A lot about this has been written about before, but we will attempt to explain it in words, and how it will look on screen. When each spokesperson comes online, there will be a board with seven spaces on the screen to the left. At a reasonable pace the first space will show for example Switzerland 1 point (at this point the other six spaces are blank)then the second space will then go onto show Croatia 2 points (five remaining blank spaces), Spain 3 points and so on. There should hopefully be enough time to get an audience reaction as each one is revealed in turn. But it is at a faster pace than the traditional announcement. After those seven have been done, it will then cut to the overall scoreboard and the current state of the countries. The spokesperson will then announce the 8, 10 and 12 as in previous years. With the graphic of the 8 points flying up to its slot on the board, and then the 10 points, and finally of course our favourite douze points. The last three countries will announce their points in the full order as in the past years. There was a general feeling amongst the audience that it wasn't as bad as first expected, and could improve the pace of the voting. As Mr Stockselius remarked, the biggest mistake they could make is to lay back and not change with the times.
The audience had their chance to ask questions, and as always fans were keen to see the return of old countries, and the possibilities of new countries? "Several countries have expressed an interest in joining the contest, and have sent observers to be here in Athens, but i won't say who they are. My big wish is to see the return of Italy to the event".
Could he see any solution to the criticism of the block voting, countries voting for their neighbours? "The voting is 100% democratic, no experts, juries, just the viewers. No accusations of votes being exchanged in corridors. It is transparent, no way to cheat. It is hard to convince an entire block to vote in one way. However a song may be a hit in one country, the artist may be known, the langauge and culture may be the same as a neighbour, so we will see these trends, but there is no doubt the winner is the best song. So we will leave things as they are, a democracy".
There is a further EBU press conference on Friday 19th May at 11.00. This will however be concerned with Eurovision Co-Productions.