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EBU/NDR press conference

11 May 2011 at 23:25 CEST

The 4-member press conference panel included:

- Jon Ola Sand, Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest EBU

- Sietse Bakker, EBU Coordinator

- Ralf Quibeldey, Executive Producer Event

- Thomas Schreiber, Head of ARD Eurovision Song Contest Team & Executive Producer Show

Sand opened the press conference by commenting on how impressed he was with what the Germans had done. Sietse praised Sand, who has been Executive Supervisor of the the EBU for one year: “He was the absolute perfect candidate for the EBU to fulfill this important role. The Eurovision Song Contest is not just a TV show, it's a mega-event.”

Sand noted that this year's Eurovision Song Contest was the biggest ever. Even though the same number of countries (43) had also participated in 2008, there are more journalists and more media attention this year. He also expressed how great it was to have small countries like San Marino competing and other countries like Italy and Austria returning after some years of absence.

Sand also alluded to a technical glitch that occurred during the 1st Semi-Final, which caused audio interruptions in a number of countries, but did not affect the result of the Semi-Final. The fault occurred due to dropouts in the multichannel sound connections, which were not correctly transferred from the commentators' boxes to the proper interfaces. The disturbance affected different countries in different ways. In Germany, commentators Steven Gätjen and Peter Urban could not be heard for approximately four minutes and had to deliver their commentary via telephone for about 20 minutes. This technical glitch has been fixed and a second backup system has been installed. Tonight the audio sound crews will conduct a stress test for every country to ensure that the next two shows run smoothly.

A change was also made to the order in which the results of the various countries are announced. A Swedish professor has created an algorithm to add a certain unpredictability to the process in order to prolong the excitement and suspense.

Sand closed his remarks by offering some comments about the future of the Eurovision Song Contest. In the past, the trend has been toward ever bigger and more expensive contests, which places a considerable strain on small countries wishing to host the event. This is also not sustainable in the long run. Sand explained that his goal was to maintain the Eurovision Song Contest as a world-class, cutting edge TV show, but this would not necessarily mean that the Contest would continue to grow in size. He will be careful with instituting changes, striving merely to maintain and enhance the appeal of the Contest.

The date for next year's Contest Grand Final has also been set: Saturday, May 26th, 2012. This date was chosen so as not to conflict with various European sports events occurring around this time.

Schreiber provided some information about ticket sales. There were 16,000 - 16,500 people in the arena for the 1st Semi-Final and tomorrow night there might be as many as 17,000 - 18,000. Grand Final tickets are sold out, but there are still a few tickets available for the second Semi-Final.

The Flying Steps, a dance group, and the Cold Steel Drummers will be the interval acts for this year's Contest. Their performances will keep audiences entertained while the international votes for the contestants are being gathered and tabulated. Schreiber: “This is our way of showing some forms of contemporary pop culture.” He then concluded his remarks by expressing his thanks to NDR for the wonderful production.

Quibeldey answered questions from journalists. When asked how he and his team dealt with unexpected challenges, he responded: ”The challenge is the sheer number of people we deal with. We have 2,500 journalists and 550 volunteers, who all need to transported, fed, entertained, and taken care of. This is our primary challenge.”

Some journalists referred to certain technical problems with sound, televoting, and SMS confirmation in individual countries. Quibeldey had not been informed of these problems, but explained that these issues were controlled by the broadcasters and telecommunications companies in the individual countries and not by NDR or the EBU. He also said that he had received a lot of great feedback about the broadcast. He concluded by affirming that strong security measures were in place to ensure the safety of the event.