Eurovision 2011: Reference group decides on 24 participants for final

The European Broadcasting Union’s Reference Group, responsible for the organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest, met yesterday in Belgrade to summarise this year’s event, and also welcome NRD to the fold. The meeting was hosted by Sandra Šuša, who leaves the panel after three years. She was the representative of RTS, with host broadcasters serving in the group for two years after they hold the event to pass on experience and guidance.

Two main issues have come out of the meeting. Firstly, it has been decided that only 24 countries will contest the final of next year’s competition. The issue, raised after Germany won, was if Turkey would qualify automatically or not as Germany is already in the final as part of the big four. This idea was rejected.

A change to future contests is that the infamous “October 1st” rule has been taken back one month. This means that songs wishing to participate  in Eurovision must not be released before September 1st of the previous year. According to the EBU, this was changed at the request of several broadcasters, with Belgium being one of those pushing most for it.

The four candidate cities to host next year’s event were also officially presented. Next year’s deadline for handing over songs and materials is 14th March, with a meeting taking place then and on the 15th.