The first Semi-Final of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will take place on Tuesday, 20th of May. The second Semi-Final is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 22nd of May. The Final of the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest will traditionally take place on a Saturday (24th of May). Preliminary date for rehearsals to start is Sunday, 11th of May, which means the preliminary opening date of the press centre and the accreditation desk is Saturday, 10th of May.
To determine which country will be represented in which Semi-Final, a draw will take place in late January. Based on research conducted by the EBU’s tele-voting partner Digame, analyzing the voting of the Eurovision Song Contest since 2004, the participating countries will be divided into six pots to avoid returning voting patterns.
Each broadcaster will of course have to broadcast the Semi-Final they are taking part in. Broadcast of the other Semi-Final is optional. Host country Serbia and the so-called Big Four-countries Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, are automatically qualified for the Final. It was decided that each of the qualified Finalists will have to broadcast and vote in one of the Semi-Final, along with those countries that are taking part in it. Broadcast of the other Semi-Final is optional. By draw, also late January, it will be decided which two of the Big Four-countries will broadcast and vote in the first Semi-Final, and which two in the second Semi-Final. Finally, a draw will determine in which Semi-Final the host country will be able to vote.
The draw for the running order of the two Semi-Finals and the Final will take place during the Heads of Delegation meeting in mid-March.
Backup jury gets important new role
In each Semi-Final, the top-9 from the public tele-voting results will qualify for the Final. The highest ranked back-up jury participant that did not qualify for the Final at the public tele-voting will also qualify for the Final. This means in each Semi-Final, 10 participants will qualify for the Final, bringing the total number of participants in the Final to 25. The voting in the Final will remain unchanged and all participating countries, including those who did not qualify for the Final, will be able to vote.
Svante Stockselius, the EBU’s Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, said to Eurovision.tv: "We are confident that the approved format revisions will take the Eurovision Song Contest to a higher level, by adding exciting elements and, above all, by making the competition more fair and the results more credible."