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Marija and Lys Assia present trophy

22 May 2008 at 13:32 CEST

Svante Stockselius, Executive Supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest, said that EBU and RTS were were pleased about the first Semi-Final for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, which took place last night. Stockselius mentioned that there is a record-number of 43 countries participating this year with Azerbaijan and San Marino taking part for the first time. The contest will be broadcast in these 43 countries, but also in Australia, Austria, Kazakhstan and New Zealand.

Stockselius, reacting to the comments that the Eurovision Song Contest had developed into an event "dominated by Eastern Europe", explained that there was very little difference between the Western and the Eastern European voters in the final of the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. Had a 50% televote and a 50% jury vote been used in 2007, the results would have been different to a few countries. 

A draw had been held to decide who would be participating in which Semi-Final, whereas six pots had been created to equal out the participants in each Semi-Final. The pots were compiled based on research conducted by televoting partner Digame. Stockselius also remarked that from this year onwards, nine of the ten qualifiers in the Semi-Final will now be decided by televote, and the back-up jury's highest ranked contestant who did not qualify yet also proceeds to the Final. To the surprise of many, the Executive Supervisor revealed that the 10 qualified countries were the same with the back-up jury as with the televote. 

A new schedule had to be created in order to rehearse all three shows, both the two Semi-finals and the Final. Just like last year, all countries participating in the 2008 contest will be able to vote in the Grand Final. Furthermore, three Eurovision Countdown shows had been produced by the EBU as a lead-up to the Eurovision Song Contest which were offered to all EBU-members. 80% of the members chose to broadcast these shows in some way. 

Just like last year, a Winner's Tour will be organised for the victorious singers in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. Additionally, it was announced that an Eurovision Song Contest movie will be produced by a renowned international company. The contest has also been licenced to Northern Africa and Arab countries. More news about that can be expected at another press conference, taking place on Friday at 13:00 here in Belgrade. 

The 54th Eurovision Song Contest Semi-Finals and Final will be on 12th, 14th and 16th of May as peliminary dates, so the national finals would have to be completed by mid March 2009.

Sandra Suša said that it was a big challenge for RTS as the host broadcaster was the first one ever to organise three shows. In terms of production, Suša hoped that RTS had met the requirements of the international contest, and she thanked the hundreds of volunteers who are doing a splendid job during the two weeks of the Eurovision Song Contest. She also thanked the present journalists for all their input. Last but not least, Suša thanked her team at RTS.

When asked by an Australian journalist why there were so many empty seats in the first Semi-Final last night and if maybe if the tickets were overpriced, Suša answered that  fans had bought packages of tickets, but many decided not to show up because they preferred to attend Saturday's Final only. Another question was if it would be obligatory for all broadcasters to show both Semi-Finals from next year onwards. "It should be the choice of the broadcasters if they want to show the Semi-Final in which they are not allowed to vote," Stockselius said. 

Suša was asked if RTS would be ready to host the contest again if Serbia would win again this year, and she said that RTS would certainly be willing to host it again. 

Asked about the popularity of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, Stockselius answered that iy is a smaller version of the Eurovision Song Contest, and announced that there would be a record number of participating countries in this year's Junior Eurovision Song Contest. 

At the end of the press conference, last year's winner Marija Šerifović and the first ever Eurovision Song Contest winner Lys Assia appeared on stage. Mrs. Assia said that the Eurovision Song Contest "had changed a lot" since she took part in it, and she revealed that Marija Šerifović's song was her favorite in last year's contest. Read more..

The press conference ended with Stockselius revealing that there would be a generic trophy for the Eurovision Song Contest winners from now on, which was then shown to the present media for the first time ever. The trophy is in the shape of a traditional microphone and made of glass.