Yesterday I suggested that it could perhaps be worth considering cutting the number of songs in the ESC final down to 22-24 instead of 26 and I got plenty of feedback on that. Good. Every aspect of the show should be open for discussion.
Quite a few people also voiced the opinion that the Big Five rule should be scrapped: let France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK go through the semis like everyone else.
That has always been a touchy subject, ever since the Big Five system was introduced (in 2001, if I remember correctly). There was talk in 1996 how Germany's absence from the final really strained the NRK budget and how hard it would be staging the contest without one or several of the biggest contributors.
I have always seen the Big Five rule as a necessary evil: if that is what it takes for the ESC to go on properly so be it. Especially if the Biggies also show some commitment by contributing strong entries. Which has not always been the case.
But is this rule really needed? When it was created relegation still meant you had to miss the entire contest for a year and the EBU did not want to risk any of the Biggies to be absent. Since 2004 and the introduction of the semis nobody needs to miss a year anyway.
So what is the argument for keeping this outdated system? That the broadcasters in question would be really upset if it changed? That their viewers would never watch a final unless they have their own entry? Well, that is already the situation for everyone else.
Now that the process is underway to scale down the contest and diminish the costs of hosting and organising - will it still be absolutely necessary to keep the Big Five in the contest in order to afford it?
That would certainly be something for the reference group to ponder before the 2014 contest.