Friday the 22nd of November was a black day for Eurovision fans. Two competing countries—Bulgaria and Serbia—announced that they will withdraw from the  contest in 2014. They joined the ranks of Croatia and Cyprus, who previously announced they are out. It doesn’t take a statistician to spot the trend. After about ten years of fast growth, Eurovision is now slowing down. The ranks of competing nations are thinning.

This is because more countries in Europe are not sure how long they will be able and willing to participate at Eurovision. As you all know Bosnia and Herzegovina and Portugal took a one year break in 2013. Slovakia left in 2013, following its neighbor the Czech Republic, which last competed in 2009, and Poland, which last competed in 2011. Turkey has called it quits—and even set up Turkeyvision, where eight other Eurovision countries will battle it out with musical powerhouses like the Republic of Tataristan in Russia and the Republic of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. Every year rumours about the future of Greece and Romania quitting leave us feeling very sad indeed.

Given the current trend, there is a good chance that only 37 countries will “join us” in Copenhagen. That’s six fewer countries than in Düsseldorf in 2011. It all leads to an obvious question: Do we actually need two semi-finals anymore?

Eurovision semi-final winners alyona belarus

There are at least two reasons that justify staging one large semi-final instead of two smaller ones.

First, last year I was Israel’s greatest fan. But because I am from The Netherlands and we were in the other semi-final I couldn’t vote for dear Moran Mazor (which was obviously the reason she got stuck in her semi-final). If there was one semi-final, everybody could vote for the best song and not just the best song of their semi-final. It is hard to predict, but after seeing the reactions after Israel didn’t qualify, I suspect the nation would have qualified if everyone could vote at the same time.

A second issue is that the semi-finals are very short and over before you find the perfect place on the couch. All participants have three minutes to perform, and then we have about fifteen minutes to vote for the best song while last year’s winner or another musician perform for us in the traditional clothes of their country (maybe you remember the Azeri man in 2012 and the meatballs last year). Last year that took about two hours for sixteen or seventeen participants. At half past ten we were done celebrating or crying for our respective countries. If we have 31 semi-finalists competing in one semi-final, then it will only take an hour and a half longer and all of Europe will watch the same show. That will makes it more attractive for companies to advertise during the show.

azerbaijan farid eurovision 2013

Of course, the idea of two semi-finals is more fun for the diehard fans who will be in Copenhagen in May. I mean two semi-finals means a longer week of celebrating, more parties and more possibilities to meet your favourites! At the same time, it creates an atmosphere similar to professional sports. You follow your team for the season (or, in this case, the weeks leading up to ESC) and hope they will advance from round to round.

The other issue with having one semi-final is that it allows for bloc voting. Countries who traditionally vote for each other (Scandinavia, and former USSR and ex-Yugoslav Republics) will always have the opportunity to vote for one another, whereas now they are split into two separate semis. Western Europe will have a hard time reaching the finals. Remember what happened in 2007? There was one semi-final and ten East European countries qualified.

So what do you think, two short semi-finals or one long one? What’s the minimum number of countries that justifies having two semis?

Mike Bos contributed this report from the Netherlands. You can keep up with the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the team from wiwibloggs.com on Twitter @wiwibloggs and by liking our Facebook page.

29 Comments
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LJ
LJ
7 years ago

I think we don’t need a semi final. Why can’t we do one huge show (final), where every single country has the chance to win? Make the show 1 hour longer and everything would work. The performances of the participating countries would take some more minutes yes, but f.ex. the voting procedure is the same cause all countries are allowed to vote in the final. That would be fair, cause everyone could vote for every artist (except the own country of course). One show and we don’t have to be sad that 5 of the 6 places in the final… Read more »

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

Thank you. But what is your opinion about it? I mean I guess we are with 37 countries in Copenhagen. That means 15 and 16 semi-finalists. I think this is still okay, but if next year also about 2 or 3 Eastern-European countries will quit, EBU has to look for another way to get 26 finalists!

Arianna
8 years ago

@Margaret Burger I think his idea was that if the UK had to work to earn it, they’d put in some more effort & come up with something nice eventually! But if having the big 5 in the semis makes it more expensive for other countries, then that wouldn’t be a good idea.

Anthony
Anthony
8 years ago

Two semi-finals are already fair enough. Having one long one will put the countries with a dismal qualifying record at an even bigger disadvantage.

Margaret Burger
Margaret Burger
8 years ago

Thanks for at least spelling “bloc voting” correctly.

“I like the idea of the Big 5 having to earn their spot in the final.” – Then UK will never make the final again.

Petar
Petar
8 years ago

Ok.. Imagine listening to 30+ song in one night. Will you remember first 5 songs? I know I wouldn’t. Remember how Austria and France were damaged this year cause of that. When there would be so manny countries in one night a lot of them would be forgotten when the time for voting comes.

to Spirious from Estonia
to Spirious from Estonia
8 years ago

Estonia, even Russians here would never vote for Belarus cha-cha song… and we gave 0 points to them in semi and final. And we don’t give much points to Lithuania (4 in semi, 0 in final this year) because we are not close friends. Same thing for Moldova, only jury would vote for them. And yes, we give always 8-12 points to Russia, because 30% of population are Russians here. However, Estonia and Russia have very bad political relations and Estonians won’t vote for Russia just because we are ”friends”…

James
James
8 years ago

Being in the UK, it’s nice to know we always have a better chance at winning, but I’m inclined to agree with others that the rule needs to be abolished somewhat. I agree that the Big 5 need some form of gratitude for the money (like starting off with 10 points in the semi finals?) but by not competing, we are sending any song without seeing if it flops before the contest gets too serious.

Dar
Dar
8 years ago

@ spirous … Why is it the right thing for the big 5 to be in the semi finals … So do you suggest that the entry fee for every other country increase. You are not being realistic about the situation …..

Spirous
Spirous
8 years ago

Two semifinals is the solution. One big semi final is too chaotic. So many great song have stayed oute of the semis by this way. Cyprus in 2007? Netherlands in 2005? and so many others. But the pots must be seperated more and more carefully. e.g Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are not in the same pot with Ukraine or Russia, so they end in the same semi and vote for each others. Last year Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Estonia were all in the same semi and all maanged to qualify, but Latvia who is in the same bloc was… Read more »

paco
8 years ago

Veo muchas opiniones sobre los 5 grandes,que si no llevan calidad,que si entradas de bromas,que si Turkia se separa de esc.Todos sabemos que a los 5 grandes se les castiga en la tabla final de votos,no siempre es asi pero por norma general si lo es,Se paga no por participar en EUROVISION,si para tener derecho de retransmitir todos los eventos a lo largo de un año,ya sean eventos deportivos,sociales bodas reales…etc,no desvirtuar el concepto por el que se paga el canon.Esa actitud para nada ayuda a esc,por favor

joey
joey
8 years ago

……and i kinda agree for all countries to vote in two semi-finals!!!

joey
joey
8 years ago

for me, i have NO PROBLEM at all for the big 5 and the host to qualify for the finals, but still they should keep the two semi-finals for more fun in the ESC!!! Keep the fire burning!!!

dar
dar
8 years ago

People who have an issue with the direct qualification of the big 5 should look at it from the perspective of the big 5 broadcasters. Should they pay more funds to the contest than any of the of nations if they still have to qualify for the final ???

The fact is that if there is no big 5 we would have to increase the fee for all the other participating nations resulting in more of them backing out of the contest.

You need to look at the situation from a realistic perspective !!!

Julian
Julian
8 years ago

if it is bloc voting in one big semifinal then it is bloc voting in two semifinals but where all countries are allowed to vote in each semifinal of course it is some bloc voting in the current semifinal system but more difficult to fix and with smaller impact… what I would add not sure how it is now – a random draw for which country participate to which semifinal as to bloc voting per se is a vicious circle being successful leads to sending better entries… and being unsuccessful leads to sending joke entries or even specialising in sending… Read more »

Ohdear
Ohdear
8 years ago

If there was just one big semi-final… who would need a final? Wouldn’t a big semi-final feel like a final without the Big Five?

Alex
Alex
8 years ago

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That applied to the voting system of 2012 (which, once changed in 2013, led to some of the most ridiculously unfair results Eurovision has seen since, well, 2007), and it applies here. I think that moreover this would inevitably reduce the odds of qualification for San Marino and other countries with poor geopolitical support. 2007 was such a voting disaster that there’s no way we should ever go back to that system. Going back to what I just said, remember how Andorra failed to make the final that year? If you watch a… Read more »

Lawrence gibb
Lawrence gibb
8 years ago

I suspect that changing the system won’t change the outcome. I also don’t belive the contest is on the wane. It’s the finances, apart from Turkey where there is a political motivation and this attempt to set up rival trading blocks and a song contest is part of that. After 60 years, the competition is as strong as ever and judging by the reaction from fans and artists in those withdrawing countries, I suspect it wil be for a long time yet.

Charles
Charles
8 years ago

I’ve heard Sweden and Norway are already allocated in separate semi finals. I agree with this! What is intriguing to me is how is EBU separating 6 soviet nations who still vote for each other no matter what and no matter how and still have this atrocious strength to move on to the final every time. So yeah keep the 2 semi finals I see no problem with that. The BIG5 drama has never been a drama for me but for these 5 countries themselves in terms of final result except for Italy which has delivered classy and awesome true… Read more »

Arianna
8 years ago

I agree with Angus’s idea to just let everybody vote in both semis. Keep 2 semis, cause there will still be a lot of songs to pack in only 1. It might seem like we lost a lot of countries this year, but we also gained & there are still those extension dates for people to join..or not join lol.

Astrikur
Astrikur
8 years ago

I think the editor is forgetting that the semis are on weekdays and most have to get up early next day for work. Also even the start is very late for some countries, like Azerbaijan and Russia. So its a good thing that the semis are less than 3 hours. The Final is limited to 26 counties, so a semi must also max be 26, the voting will be shorter but take into account that semi is on a weekday.

Melissa J
8 years ago

I think that it might actually be better for the Big 5 if they had to compete for spots in the Finals. Look at it this way: during the show we only hear the Big 5 songs perform once. But we get to hear many other songs perform twice (if they make it through to the Final). If they had to compete, they’d not only be more serious about sending better songs but may actually do better in the Final. But with Portugal coming back and the number of countries staying in the high 30s, we definitely need 2 semis.

karen
karen
8 years ago

the only country that should qualify for the final is the host, the big 5 should go through the semi like the rest.

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

I think the idea for automatic qualificatiob for the top 10 of 2013 is weird. I mean if you send a good song last year, that doesn’t say your song of this year is also good.. Also the big 5 have to qualify, because the only one of them doing quiet good is Italy. Then we have much enough countries for two good and long semi-finals!

D
D
8 years ago

Definitely not one semi-final. That would be terrible. I do think however that the Big 5 should not automatically qualify each year, only the host country should be allowed to as they actually earned their spot by winning the previous year. But also, most likely 38 countries will be in Copenhagen, since Poland will most likely return, that being only one country down from last year. Bulgaria and Cyprus still have a chance of returning since Cyprus may be getting sponsored and Bulgaria have talked about how they “welcome” the fee deadline extension. If that actually means anything. So who… Read more »

Craig
Craig
8 years ago

I think a combo of the new and old system could suffice for one big semi final. Big 5 and host country qualify along with the top ten ranked from the previous year’s contest. That leaves 10 out of 21 countries to qualify for the finals.
If they were to do it next year the line up would be:

Denmark, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Norway, Russia, Greece, Malta, Netherlands, Hungary, Moldova and Belgium.

David Thielen
David Thielen
8 years ago

The core problem is participating is too expensive. They need to find a way where all countries can afford to participate.

eurovision-berlin
eurovision-berlin
8 years ago

My suggestion: Of 37 participants only last year’s winner in the final, all the other semi. 2 semis with 18 participants.

Angus Quinn
Angus Quinn
8 years ago

Two Semi-Finals is the way, they just need to let everyone vote in both finals.