Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eurovision: Two For The Price Of One

Crawling back after an extended summer break, the Gazette can't help opening its autumn season with what must be supposed to be the solution to the east/west impasse at the Eurovision Song Contest: starting '08, the event gets two semi-finals instead of one, with all countries having to go through qualifying except the hosts and the lucky four (Britain, France, Germany and Spain) whose national broadcasters are pretty good at paying higher dues to the European Broadcasting Union than anyone else but not so hot at picking an entry that comes anywhere near the top ten.

How far this will keep the various geo-cultural interest groups happy depends on one of the details still being held back - who precisely ends up in which semi. On previous form, one can expect any of the following:

  • A random draw to be made by minor celebrities from the host country and presented as a pointlessly prime-time event, probably as the half-time entertainment at a beauty pageant;

  • Some impenetrable UEFA-style coefficient, based on the longitude of the national broadcaster's headquarters, the number of a) Roman divided by b) Byzantine artefacts preserved in the archaeological museum, and per-capita album sales for i) Tarkan ii) Shakira and iii) Gogol Bordello;

  • A permanently enshrined line down the map which will be guaranteed to upset at least three states which think they should be more western than that, and two which fancied their chances with the easties, but not the Russians or Ukrainians, who seem to know what they're doing wherever they are.

And who gets to watch which semi? That's the hard part, according to Eurovision executive supervisor Svante Stockselius:

'the proposal; is based on the idea that the two Semi-Finals of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will be aired simultaneously on Thursday, 22nd of May from Belgrade, Serbia. [...] Each Semi-Final is only being aired in the countries that are taking part, and only viewers from countries that take part in each respective Semi-Final can vote.'

But nevertheless:

'All participating broadcasters can broadcast the Semi-Final(s) they are not taking part in later as well, and the Semi-Finals will be webcasted live through To serve the fans, both Semi-Finals will also be made available on-demand the next day.'

Oh. It must have taken a lot of work for somebody to make the system that complicated. But that's all right, because: 'To produce the two Semi-Finals live on different nights will result in high extra costs for both the Host Broadcaster and the participating Members.' As opposed to the Host Broadcaster having to kit out two venues for the semis instead of one, then.

It's still not certain where that leaves a Big Four broadcaster like the BBC, which wouldn't have to bother with the semis at all if it didn't want to: going by BBC Sport's usual form at tournaments when none of the home nations are involved, we're either in for full-on coverage of Ireland, or a frantic dash between the two feeds whenether something more interesting happens on the other channel, fireworks go up, or that girl whips her top off.

Oddly, none of this seems to have made the Croatian tabloids yet, although they can usually be guaranteed to leap into this sort of thing with a quick commentary on whether or not it benefits the national interest. But it's probably only a matter of time: the Belgrade-hosted show should make for a packed week of showbusiness ethnopolitics in any case, especially for those participants with more interest than your average state in pulling off a good result on the Serbians' home turf while still remaining true to the cherished traditions of national musical culture. (Here's looking at you, HTV...)

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