Il programma è trasmesso sempre un Sabato tra la fine di novembre e l’inizio di dicembre e dura circa due ore quindici minuti.
Tradizionalmente il concorso consiste in una cerimonia di apertura in cui vengono presentati gli artisti, le performance dal vivo su base musicale, un recap delle canzoni per facilitare il televoto, un Interval Act di norma a televoto chiuso, le dichiarazioni di voto e, infine, la proclamazione del vincitore che riesegue la canzone vincitrice.
Dal 2008 il vincitore di ogni gara è stato deciso da una mix al 50% di televoto e giurie nazionali. Il range di punti è identico a quello dell’ESC: 12 punti al primo, 10 al secondo e da 8 sino a 1 dal 3 al decimo classificato. I punti vengono annunciati in diretta durante il programma da un portavoce che rappresenta il paese partecipante (che, come per i cantanti, è di età compresa tra i dieci e i quindici anni). Una volta che tutti i paesi partecipanti hanno annunciato i loro risultati, il paese che ha ricevuto il maggior numero di punti viene dichiarato vincitore del concorso di quell’anno.
Il Paese che vince non è obbligato ad organizzare l’edizione dell’anno successivo.
Nonostante lo Junior Eurovision Song Contest sia basato sul format dell’Eurovision Song Contest, ci sono alcune differenze fra i due concorsi. Allo JESC i cori possono essere registrati sulle basi musicali. Il brano di ogni paese deve essere selezionato attraverso una finale nazionale (a meno che le circostanze lo rendano impossibile per cui l’EBU può concedere delle deroghe). Ogni partecipante non parte da 0 punti, ma da 12 che vengono assegnati di default.
La canzone deve essere scritta e cantata nella lingua nazionale (o in una delle lingue nazionali) del paese rappresentato. Tuttavia, possono avere un paio di strofe in una lingua diversa. Gli esecutori devono essere cittadini di quel paese che rappresentano o avervi vissuto per almeno due anni.
Dal 2008, autori adulti possono collaborare alla stesura del brano mentre in precedenza, tutti gli scrittori dovevano essere ragazzini tra i 10 e 15 anni.
The format of the contest has remained relatively unchanged over the course of its history in that the format consists of successive live musical performances by the artists entered by the participating broadcasters. The EBU claims that the aim of the programme is “to promote young talent in the field of popular music, by encouraging competition among the […] performers”.
The programme was always screened on a Saturday night in late November/early December and lasts approximately two hours fifteen minutes. Since 2016, the contest is screened on an early Sunday evening.
Traditionally the contest will consist of an opening ceremony in which the performers are welcomed to the event, the performances of the entries, a recap of the songs to help televoting viewers decide which entries to vote for, an interval act usually performed after the televoting has closed, the results of the televoting or back-up jury voting which is then followed by the declaration of the winner and a reprise of the winning song. At various points throughout the show, networks may opt out for a few minutes to screen a commercial break.
Since 2008 the winning entry of each contest has been decided by a mixture of televoting and national juries, each counting for fifty percent of the points awarded by each country. The winners of all previous contests had been decided exclusively by televoting. The ten entries that have received the most votes in each country are awarded points ranging from one to eight, then ten and twelve. These points are then announced live during the programme by a spokesperson representing the participating country (who, like the participants, is aged between ten and fifteen). Once all participating countries have announced their results, the country that has received the most points is declared the winner of that year’s contest.
Until 2013 the winners receive a trophy and a certificate. Since 2013 contest the winner, runner-up and third place all win trophies and certificates.
Originally, unlike its adult version, the winning country did not receive the rights to host the next contest. From 2014 until 2017, the winning country had first refusal on hosting the following contest. Italy used this clause in 2015 to decline hosting the contest that year after their victory in 2014. On 15 October 2017, the EBU announced a return to the original system in 2018, claiming that it would help provide broadcasters with a greater amount of time to prepare, ensuring the continuation of the contest into the future.
he contest usually features two presenters, one man and one woman (though the 2006, 2014, 2015 and 2017 contests were exceptions to this), who regularly appear on stage and with the contestants in the green room. The presenters are also responsible for repeating the results immediately after the spokesperson of each broadcaster to confirm which country the points are being given to. Between 2003 and 2012, the spokespersons gave out the points in the same format as the adult contest, behind a backdrop of a major city of that country in the national broadcaster’s television studio. From 2013 onwards, the spokespersons give the points from their country on the arena stage, as opposed to the adult contest where spokespersons are broadcast live from their respective country. The reason for this is unknown, but it’s believed that with the introduction of new countries, e.g. Australia, the times zones are different. Since JESC is broadcast on a Sunday afternoon, if the spokespersons gave the votes in their respective countries, it would be early morning in Australia, and nobody would want to present the votes.
Despite the Junior Eurovision Song Contest being modelled on the format of the Eurovision Song Contest, there are many distinctive differences that are unique to the children’s contest. For instance, while the main vocals must be sung live during the contest, backing vocals may be recorded onto the backing track. Each country’s entry must be selected through a televised national final (unless circumstances prevent this and permission is gained from the EBU). Each country’s performance is also allowed a maximum of eight performers on stage, as opposed to the original number of six in the Eurovision Song Contest. From 2005 to 2015 every contestant was automatically awarded 12 points to prevent the contestants scoring zero points, although ending with 12 points total was in essence the same as receiving zero, however, no entry has ever received nul points in total scoring.