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?
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.
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.