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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 February, 2004, 19:02 GMT
BBC launches Eurovision assault
Hyrise are one of the acts competing this year
The BBC has launched a new Pop Idol-style showcase in a bid to improve the UK's Eurovision Song Contest prospects.

Six performers will compete on Making Your Mind Up, including Fame Academy finalist James Fox and Reborn In The USA contestant Haydon Eshun.

Viewers will vote for their favourite song, while an expert judging panel will advise voters on what to look for.

The UK finished last at the 2003 contest, with duo Jemini failing to score a single point.

The six finalists for the new-look Song For Europe competition have spent months being prepared for the Saturday night live show, which is being aired on 28 February.

The hand-picked contestants include two female vocalists, a boy band and an female R&B trio.

The songs have been penned by British composers who have penned hit tunes for the likes of Westlife, Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera.

In the run-up to the competition, the finalists will tour the country in a bid to drum up support for their bid to represent the UK in Turkey on 15 May.

Madison Taylor is taking part in the new look Song For Europe
The BBC decided to change the format for selecting a Eurovision hopeful after Jemini's disastrous showing in Latvia last year.

Former Fame Academy student James Fox says he was "sceptical" when first approached about becoming involved, but felt the new format was a winner.

"I felt my song was great, and this year there's music industry support, and it's going to be a big Saturday night show," he told BBC News Online.

"Eurovision is a sleeping giant, and hasn't been exploited for a while," said the 27-year-old, who will perform Hold Onto Our Love in the final.

Fox feels his experience on Fame Academy will be an advantage and should avoid a repeat of Jemini's poor performance.

"I sang live on Saturday night for eight weeks, and am confident about going in and doing the job - but all the acts are very capable," he said.

The new-style show will be compered by Terry Wogan, who is synonymous with Eurovision and says he "welcomes" the BBC's revised format.

Jemini
Last year's UK entrants Jemini came last with no points
Last year's Song For Europe show was aired on a Sunday afternoon, and a change to Saturday prime time is likely to give it a ratings boost.

Other countries have devised new formats to choose their Eurovision representative.

Spain's Operacion Trifuno is the country's equivalent of Pop Idol and Fame Academy, giving contestants a chance to peform on the Eurovision stage.

In the last two years, Spain has finished comfortably in the top 10.

During the early 1990s, the UK chose well-known performers for Eurovision, such as Sonia and Michael Ball - but they narrowly failed to bring home the trophy.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Sillito
"All this pop talent is lining up to serve its country"



SEE ALSO:
James is latest Academy eviction
21 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Joy and humiliation at Eurovision
24 May 03  |  Entertainment
Turkish delight at Eurovision win
24 May 03  |  Entertainment


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