United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest
|National selection events||Eurovision: Your Country Needs You (1957, 1959–2010)
Internal Selection (2011–present)
|Best result||1st: 1967, 1969, 1976, 1981, 1997|
|Worst result||Last: 2003, 2008, 2010|
|United Kingdom's page at Eurovision.tv|
The United Kingdom is one of the most successful countries to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. They first participated in the second contest in 1957. The BBC had wanted to take part in the first contest in 1956, but had submitted their entry to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) after the deadline had passed. The UK has entered every year since 1959, and has won the contest a total of five times. Along with Sweden, the UK is one of only two countries with Eurovision victories in four different decades. Furthermore, the UK has finished as runner-up on a record fifteen occasions.
Up to and including 1998, the UK had only twice finished outside the top 10 (in 1978 and 1987). Since 1999, the year in which the rule was abandoned that songs must be performed in one of the official languages of the country participating, the UK has had less success, only finishing within the top ten twice. Jessica Garlick in 2002 and Jade Ewen in 2009 have been the only two entrants to have succeeded in earning a top five finish since 1998, and Ewen in particular was praised after her performance of "It's My Time" for ending the run of poor results it had suffered for much of the decade. For the 2011 contest, BBC chose boy band Blue to perform for the United Kingdom; they finished in 11th place with 100 points. For the 2012 contest the United Kingdom selected veteran singer Engelbert Humperdinck as its entrant. He finished in 25th place with only 12 points. For the 2013 contest, Bonnie Tyler was chosen to represent the country but fared little better than the previous year, finishing 19th with just 23 points.
The United Kingdom has finished last in three contests. The infamous 2003 "nul points" result was the first time that the country had come last in the contest, something that was then repeated in 2008 and 2010.
The UK ranks joint second in its number of Eurovision victories and has the highest cumulative points total of any country in the contest. The UK has won five times (joint second with France, Luxembourg and Sweden to Ireland's seven wins), and has come second fifteen times.
Until 2004, the UK also had the record for the largest number of points scored in a single contest, in 1997 with the runaway winner 'Love Shine A Light' which scored 227 points. However, in 1997, only 25 countries voted, whilst in 2004, when the points record was broken, 36 countries voted. Until the 2009 contest the UK held the record for winning by the largest margin, 70 points, which was also in the 1997 contest held in Dublin's Point Theatre in Ireland. This record was broken by Norway on 16 May 2009, though, only 25 countries voted in 1997, whereas 42 voted in 2009.
The United Kingdom was the first country to win with the help of Televoting after winning the 1997 Contest. The United Kingdom was one of five countries that introduced Televoting that year along with Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden.
In 1976 the UK received 164 points from 17 countries, which gave them an average of 9.64 points per country; this remains the record and is unlikely to be broken due to the vastly increased number of countries now eligible to vote in the final, though Norway's 2009 entry fell just 0.20 points short, attaining 387 points from 41 countries for an average of 9.44.
The UK has hosted the contest eight times, more than any other country. Even though the UK has only won the contest five times, it has also stepped in when other countries have turned down the chance to host it.
For eight years the UK held the record for receiving the most set of 12 points in one show. They received ten sets of twelve points in 1997 in Dublin, however they then shared this record for four years with Greece who also received ten sets of twelve points in 2005. This was later beaten by Norway in 2009 with 16 sets, but since Eurovision Song Contest 2012, Sweden now holds the record with their 18 sets of 12 points. 25 countries voted in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest, compared to 42 countries in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, meaning Sweden now also holds the record for having the highest percentage of 12 points (44% compared to 42%).
The United Kingdom has also made 56 appearances in the contest since its début in 1957, missing only 2 (1956 and 1958). This record is bettered only by Germany which has a record number of appearances, 57 in total, missing only one contest in 1996. The United Kingdom also holds the record for the most consecutive entries by entering every contest since 1959 making 52 consecutive entries to date.
Every UK entry from 1959–1977 was placed first by at least one jury in every contest. Under the 'douze points' voting system introduced in 1975, every UK entry from 1975–1999, 2002, 2004–2009 and most recently 2011 have received either a top score of 12, 10 or 8 points from one or more countries. The UK's 1978 entry "The Bad Old Days" by Co-Co was the first UK entry not to receive at least one set of 12 or 10 points from another country. The UK's 2000 entry "Don't Play That Song Again" by Nicki French is the first UK entry not to receive a top three score from any country or televoting nations. The UK's 1999 entry "Say It Again" by Precious was the first UK entry not to receive a single set of 12 or 10 points from televoting nations.
United Kingdom and the "Big Four/Five"
In 1999 a rule change allowed the United Kingdom, along with France, Germany and Spain to automatically qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest final (irrespective of their recent scores and without entering a semi-final), due to being the biggest financial contributors to the EBU. Due to their untouchable status in the Contest, these countries became known as the "Big Four" (which became the "Big Five" in 2011 following the return of Italy to the Contest).
In 2008 it was rumoured that the "Big Four" would lose their automatic qualification, and would have to compete in the semi-finals for the first time. However it was announced by the EBU that this would not be the case and the four countries would still automatically qualify for the final of the 2009 contest without having to enter a semi-final, and this has remained as of 2013.
In 2008, the BBC defended using spending money from licence fee payers for the contest when Liberal Democrat MP Richard Younger-Ross had tabled a Commons motion which called on the corporation to withdraw its £173,000 funding for the annual contest. That same year former Eurovision commentator Sir Terry Wogan claimed that the show is "no longer a music contest" after the result was announced.
In 2012, the BBC were facing calls to quit the Eurovision Song Contest after Engelbert Humperdinck, the UK's entry, came 25th with only 12 points. However the United Kingdom confirmed their participation in the 2013 contest with Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler and her new single, "Believe In Me". On 18 May 2013 in Malmö, Sweden, Tyler finished 19th with 23 points. She went on to win two internationally voted Eurovision Song Contest Radio Awards for Best Song and Best Female Singer. In 2014, the BBC internally selected unknown singer Molly Smitten-Downes, as her artist name Molly, to represent the UK in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- Second place
- Third place
- Last place
- Automatically qualified to the final
- Did not qualify for the final
- Did not compete or was relegated
Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest
Even though the United Kingdom was entered twice into Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest with Cliff Richard's 1968 runner up entry "Congratulations" and Brotherhood of Man's 1976 winning song "Save Your Kisses for Me", the BBC decided not to participate in airing the event or taking part in the voting for the greatest Eurovision Song of the past fifty years, but instead aired an hour long special program entitled Boom Bang-a-Bang: 50 Years of Eurovision hosted by Terry Wogan looking back at the best and the worst; songs, fashions, contests, hosts and hostesses that have occurred at the Eurovision over the past fifty years.
|Year||Artist||Title||1st Round||Place||2nd Round||Place|
|1968||Cliff Richard||"Congratulations"||105||8||Did not qualify|
|1976||Brotherhood of Man||"Save Your Kisses for Me"||154||5||230||5|
- XX on 2nd Round denotes that Cliff Richard's "Congratulations" did not receive enough points to place in the top 5 and make it through to the 2nd Round.
As of 2013, United Kingdom's voting history is as follows:
- Winner – The United Kingdom gave 12 points to a winning song.
- Second place – The United Kingdom gave 12 points to a runner-up song.
- Third place – The United Kingdom gave 12 points to a third place song.
- Qualified – The United Kingdom gave 12 points to a song that qualified to the Grand Finals.
- Non-qualified – The United Kingdom gave 12 points to a song that did not qualify to the Grand Finals
|1975||Netherlands||1988||Norway||No semi-finals||2001||Estonia||No semi-finals|
1 The voting for the 1996 pre-qualifying round is unknown to date.
The United Kingdom has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest a record eight times. The United Kingdom stepped in and hosted the contest for The Netherlands in 1960, France in 1963, Monaco in 1972 and Luxembourg in 1974 due to winning countries financial and capacity issues. The BBC offered to joint host the 1996 contest in Belfast, Northern Ireland with Irish broadcaster RTÉ if Ireland were to win for a fourth year in a row.
Commentators and spokespersons
Over the years BBC commentary has been provided by several experienced radio and television presenters, including Tom Fleming, David Vine, David Jacobs, Dave Lee Travis, Pete Murray, John Dunn and Michael Aspel. However Terry Wogan provided BBC TV commentary every year from 1980 to 2008. It was confirmed on 12 August 2008 that Terry Wogan would no longer present the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK. The BBC Radio 2 DJ, who had fronted the BBC's coverage for 37 years, said it was "time for someone else to take over". He was replaced in 2009 by Graham Norton for the final. Norton has continued in the role ever since.
The final of the contest has been broadcast by BBC One (previously BBC Television Service and BBC TV) since the first contest in 1956, the first live colour transmission of the contest in the United Kingdom was the Eurovision Song Contest 1970, the first high definition broadcast of the contest began in 2007 when the contest was simulcast on BBC HD. The final is also broadcast on radio, initially on BBC Light Programme until the 1967 contest. From 1968 it was broadcast on BBC Radio 1, moving to BBC Radio 2 from the 1974 contest where it has remained ever since (except for 1983–1985). Both semi-finals are broadcast on BBC Three.
In the 1998 Contest, hosted in Birmingham, Terry Wogan acted as both commentator and on-stage presenter (together with Ulrika Jonsson). In the 1980 Contest, each song was introduced by a presenter from the national country, the United Kingdom entry being introduced by Noel Edmonds.
For most contests, a spokesperson has delivered the results of the national jury, or in recent years the results of the televoting, awarding points to the entries on behalf of his or her country. The exceptions were the contests held in 1971–1973 when votes were cast by two jury members present at the contest venue, appearing at the end of the contest to confirm their scores.
No British-born broadcaster has either presented or commentated on the live television final for over thirty years, the last being Jan Leeming in 1982.
Additionally, from 2004–2010, Paddy O'Connell commentated on the semi-final shows. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 he was also joined by Sarah Cawood. In 2008 he was joined by Caroline Flack. In recent years, the dual-commentator format during the semi-finals has allowed for the broadcaster to incorporate additional segments, interviews and live viewer interaction, during the programmes live airing. In 2011, O'Connell was replaced by Scott Mills who provided the commentary from London, while Sara Cox provided interaction from the venue. Cox and Mills provided commentary again in 2012. In 2013, Cox was replaced by Ana Matronic.
For several years the Scottish National Party (SNP) has campaigned for a place in Eurovision for Scotland but had been rejected numerous times because Scotland is represented as a part of the British entry and is represented by the BBC.
On 11 February 2008 the EBU stated that a Scottish broadcaster could apply for EBU membership, but under the current rules could not enter the Eurovision Song Contest as the BBC currently has exclusive rights to represent the entire United Kingdom. It was announced in late May 2008 that the UK would be participating in the 2009 Contest and, therefore, Scotland was not represented in 2009 as a separate entrant.
Scotland could be represented by STV, ITV Border or BBC Scotland. MEP Alyn Smith has said in the European Parliament: "Other small countries have done it [entered the competition] and I will be happy to help any of the broadcasting companies through the progress."
If Scotland were to participate it is unknown whether or not England, Wales and Northern Ireland would show any interest in entering the Eurovision Song Contest independently as well, although S4C (the Welsh language media channel) has expressed an interest and, in addition, already holds a yearly national song contest called "Cân i Gymru" (Song for Wales). S4C also considered a bid for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008 but decided not to go ahead. In 2009 MEP for Wales Jillian Evans stated her interest in securing Wales a place in the Eurovision Song Contest 2010, Wales could be represented by either BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Wales & West or S4C. There is a small campaign in Northern Ireland for a separate entrant and it could be represented by UTV or BBC Northern Ireland. There are no plans currently for England to enter separately.
However, to date, these proposed changes have not occurred, and the United Kingdom still participates in the Eurovision Song Contest as a single entrant. It was unknown what would happen if Scotland were to become an independent country. However on 25 November 2013, the Scottish Government released a referendum blueprint which detailed plans for the transfer of BBC Scotland into the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) and joining the EBU, as well as partaking in competitions, including Scottish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest.
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- BBC Eurovision site
- BBC Eurovision Facebook
- BBC Eurovision Twitter
- UK Eurovision Myspace
- Points to and from the United Kingdom eurovisioncovers.co.uk