More news about the 2008 format

by Benny Royston 96 views

As revealed by esctoday.com today, the EBU is now actively reviewing the format of the Eurovision Song Contest with a view to introducing two semi finals in 2008. This comes on the back of an extensive feedback programme with the participants of the 2007 contest. esctoday.com believes it is now almost certain that the new format will be used for the first time in Belgrade. Below, we take a look at the reasons behind the proposed change and some of the benefits that they aim to achieve.

Many delegations were upset by the results of the semi-final voting this year. They are worried about the possible outcome of a semi final result in Belgrade if the same system is used. Many predict a strong possibility that the Big Four countries would be the only 'Western representatives' in the 2008 final.

A wipe-out of Western countries, the lack of any Nordic countries and 'old school' participants runs the possibility of a collapse in interest in the Eurovision Song Contest across the Western part of Europe. Portugal, Iceland, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium have not been seen in the final for three or four years and Monaco withdrew from the 2007 event having failed to reach the final since their return.

Having spoken to many delegations in Helsinki and since the Eurovision Song Contest, esctoday.com expects the two-semi final format to be moved forwards and introduced in 2008.

From what we have been told, we expect that 10 countries will qualify from each semi final and the results will remain the outcome of a televote. People will be able to televote only for the semi final in which their country participates. All countries will televote on the final. A draw will determine which countries participate in each semi final.

The move will create a fairer playing field for countries to qualify for the final each year. The odds of a country qualifying improve from approximately 33% to more than 50% (all other things being equal), with 17-20 countries competing for 10 places rather than 28 countries fighting for 10 places. It also means that all songs are judged on merit, rather than 10 songs automatically qualifying because of the previous participant's placing at the Eurovision Song Contest a year earlier.

The effect of bloc voting will also be reduced – save for freak occurances in the draw to allocate countries to each semi final – with the former Yugoslav, former Soviet and Nordic countries being divided. This will improve the chances of qualification to the final for countries such as Malta, Israel, the Netherlands, Austria and Slovenia, who have no natural neighbours or 'voting partners'.

Although there will be an additional show, the amount of television viewing will not be greatly increased. Each show will be shorter, improving viewer interest with less chance of 'viewer switching' and with better chances for viewers to see their country progress to the final. Viewers will also have better memory of the songs that they can vote for, meaning less likelihood that they will simply vote for a neighbour country.

The shows will not be broadcast simultaneously, so broadcasters are likely to have the option to show both semi finals, but esctoday.com does not believe that it will not be compulsory for broadcasters to show the semi final that they are not participating in. No comments have yet been made about whether the Big Four and host country will be able to vote in one or both semi finals, or whether they will have to broadcast one or both semi finals.

The creation of two semi finals will also allow more countries to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest. Many delegations, fans and viewers felt that the 2007 semi final was simply too long. The show does not have the excitement of watching the voting unfold to hook viewers for 3 hours as viewers have to sit through many performances from singers they do not know or look forward to seeing. At the MTV awards, for example, viewers know the majority of performers and are happy to look forward to performances from their favourite singers and bands.

It is also hoped that the new system will improve television ratings. Many countries that did not qualify for the final saw a freefall in viewing figures for the Eurovision Song Contest, with a collapse in numbers for countries that have not participated in the final for more than a year. Israel for example, saw just 11% of the television audience tune into a show that once achieved more than 80% of the audience share.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Do you think that the introduction of a two semi final system a year earlier than planned will improve the fairness of the Eurovision Song Contest? Do you think the system will provide a result accepted by all? Do you think the EBU is going far enough by making this change or would you like to see additional changes brought in? Have your say in the reactions section below.

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