An alternative method for determining which countries will participate in each of the two semi finals for 2008 was discussed in the Head of Delegations meeting in Helsinki. Rather than dividing the participating countries by time zone, a draw will be held to determine which countries enter each semi final. There was also a large amount of opposition to the idea of two semi finals on one day, so it is most likely that they will take place one day after another, on the Wednesday and Thursday nights.
It will be mandatory for countries to broadcast the semi final in which they participate, but broadcasters will not have to screen the other semi final. It is believed that the big four and the winning country from the previous year will be able to broadcast both semi finals, but are not obligated to screen either of them. Countries will only be able to vote in the semi final in which they take part in.
Opposition to dividing the participating countries came from many delegations, some because they felt they would be at a greater disadvantage by being placed outside the semi final with the countries most in tune with their culture, others because of possible timing problems.
Should the semi finals take place on the same day, Russia may be automatically placed in the first semi final because of the time-zone issue. This would mean that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan (should they join) would most likely also ask to be placed in the earlier semi final.
It should be pointed out that no firm decision about the format or the way in which the two semi final system will operate has yet been made, and the idea is still in the discussion phase. There does seem to be unilateral agreement that the current system is no longer sustainable with such a large number of countries participating and that the two semi final system will, in some form, be introduced in 2008.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you think that a draw to determine which semi final countries enter is better than a straight-forward split according to geographical position? Do you think all countries should broadcast both semi finals? Do you think the Big Four should screen one or both semi finals? What do you think about the proposed changes? Have your say in the reactions section below.