For the 1996 contest the European Broadcasting Union replaced the relegation system with an audio preselection. Apart from the host country of Norway, all other potential participants - 29 countries in total - competed in this audio preselection, in which the national juries solely listened to audio tapes with the recordings of the 29 songs. 22 out of the 29 countries plus the host nation Norway were allowed access into the final on 18th May in Oslo. Germany, Israel, Denmark, Hungary, Russia, FYR Macedonia and Romania all failed to qualify.
The 1996 contest was groundbreaking in many ways. Host broadcaster NRK introduced virtual reality in the voting and digital filters were applied during some of the performances. Each participant received a good luck message from a representative of their respective country. The seniority of these figures varied from presidents and prime ministers to junior government ministers.
The contest was threatened by a conductor's strike after Norwegian TV-station NRK, wanting to save time, said it would cut out the orchestra conductor's appearance. Luckily, the dispute was settled amicably. The show was hosted by Morten Harket, from the group A-ha and Norwegian journalist, Ingvild Bryn.
Ireland scored its seventh victory in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song The Voice performed by Eimear Quinn. This was the fourth victory for Ireland in just five years. However, the winner was not the biggest commercial success in record sales this year. The United Kingdom's song Ooh...Aah...Just A Little Bit by Australian Gina G, only reached eighth place in the contest but went on to become a huge international hit and was even nominated for a Grammy Award.