Eurovision Song Contest
|Eurovision Song Contest|
The ESC logo, in use since 2015
|Also known as|
|Created by||EBU ad-hoc committee led by Marcel Bezençon|
|Based on||Sanremo Music Festival|
|Presented by||List of presenters|
|Country of origin||List of countries|
|Original language(s)||English and French|
|No. of episodes|
|Production location(s)||List of host cities|
|Production company(s)||European Broadcasting Union|
|Original release||24 May 1956|
The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson) is an international song competition, held annually by the European Broadcasting Union since 1956, with participants representing primarily European countries. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the winner. At least 50 countries are eligible to compete as of 2019[update]; since 2015, Australia has been allowed as a contestant.
Based on the Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy since 1951, Eurovision is broadcasted every year from its inauguration in 1956 until 2019, making it the longest-running annual international television contest and one of the world's longest-running television programmes. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events, with audience figures of between 100 million and 600 million internationally. It has been broadcast in several countries that do not compete, such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and China. Since 2000, it has been broadcast online via the Eurovision website.
Ireland holds the record for most victories, with seven wins, including four times in five years in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1996. Under the current voting system, in place since 2016, the highest-scoring winner is Salvador Sobral of Portugal with 758 points in 2017; under the previous system, the highest-scoring winner was Alexander Rybak of Norway with 387 points in 2009. The most recent winner is Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands who won the 2019 event with the song "Arcade". Winning the Eurovision Song Contest provides artists with a local career boost and sometimes long-lasting international success. Some of them include ABBA (winners for Sweden), Bucks Fizz and Lulu (winners for the United Kingdom), Celine Dion (winner for Switzerland), Johnny Logan (who won the contest twice for Ireland), Dana International (for Israel) and Lena (who won for Germany).
Origins and history
As a war-torn Europe was rebuilding itself in the 1950s, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – based in Switzerland – set up an ad hoc committee to search for ways of bringing together the countries of the EBU around a "light entertainment programme". At a committee meeting held in Monaco in January 1955 with Marcel Bezençon of the Swiss television as chairman, the committee conceived the idea (initially proposed by Sergio Pugliese of the Italian broadcaster RAI) of an international song contest where countries would participate in one television programme to be transmitted simultaneously across all countries of the union. The competition was based upon the existing Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy and was seen as a technological experiment in live television. In those days it was a very ambitious project to join many countries together in a wide-area international network. Satellite television did not exist and the Eurovision Network comprised a terrestrial microwave network. The concept, then known as "Eurovision Grand Prix", was approved by the EBU General Assembly in a meeting held in Rome on 19 October 1955, and it was decided that the first contest would take place in spring 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland. The name "Eurovision" was first used in relation to the EBU's network by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951.
The first contest was held in the town of Lugano, Switzerland, on 24 May 1956. Seven countries participated—each submitting two songs, for a total of 14. This was the only contest in which more than one song per country was performed: since 1957 all contests have allowed one entry per country. The 1956 contest was won by the host nation, Switzerland.
The contest was first known as the "Eurovision Grand Prix" (in English). This "Grand Prix" name was adopted by Germany, Denmark, Norway and the Francophone countries, with the French designation being Le Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne. The "Grand Prix" was dropped in 1973 and replaced with Concours (contest) in French and in 2001 with the English name in German, but not in Danish or Norwegian. The Eurovision network is used to carry many news and sports programmes internationally, among other specialised events organised by the EBU. However, in the minds of the public, the name "Eurovision" is most closely associated with the Song Contest.
|Year(s)||English||French||Other languages||Official logo language|
|1956–1959||Eurovision Song Contest Grand Prix||Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne||N/A||French|
|1965||Gran Premio Eurovisione della Canzone||Italian|
|1967||Grand Prix Eurovision de la Chanson||French|
|1968||Eurovision Song Contest||Grand Prix de la Chanson||English|
|1969||Festival de la Canción de Eurovisión||Spanish|
|1973||Concours Eurovision de la Chanson||French|
|1979||תחרות הזמר של האירוויזיון||Hebrew|
|1991||Concorso Eurovisione della Canzone||Italian|
The format of the contest has changed over the years, though the basic tenets have always been thus: participant countries submit original songs, performed live on a television programme broadcast across the Eurovision Network by the EBU simultaneously to all countries. A "country" as a participant is represented by one television broadcaster from that country: typically, but not always, that country's national public broadcasting organisation. The programme is hosted by one of the participant countries, and the programme is broadcast from the auditorium in the host city. During this programme, after all the songs have been performed, the countries then proceed to cast votes for the other countries' songs: nations are not allowed to vote for their own song. At the end of the programme, the song with the most points is declared as the winner. The winner receives, simply, the prestige of having won—although it is usual for a trophy to be awarded to the winning songwriters, and the winning country is formally invited to host the event the following year.
The programme is invariably opened by one or more presenters, welcoming viewers to the show. Between the songs and the announcement of the voting, an interval act is performed.
As national broadcasters join and leave the Eurovision feed transmitted by the EBU, the EBU/Eurovision network logo ident (not to be confused with the song contest logo) is displayed. The accompanying theme music (used on other Eurovision broadcasts) is the prelude to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Te Deum. Originally, the same logo was used for both the Eurovision network and the European Broadcasting Union, however, they now have two different logos; when the ident is transmitted, it is the Eurovision network logo that appears.
Eligible participants include primarily Active Members (as opposed to Associate Members) of the EBU. Active members are those who are located in states that fall within the European Broadcasting Area, or are member states of the Council of Europe.
The "European Broadcasting Area" is bounded on the west by the western boundary of Region 1, on the east by the meridian 40° East of Greenwich and on the south by the parallel 30° North so as to include the northern part of Saudi Arabia and that part of those countries bordering the Mediterranean within these limits. In addition, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine and those parts of the territories of Iraq, Jordan and Syrian Arab Republic lying outside the above limits are included in the European Broadcasting Area.[a]
The western boundary of Region 1 is defined by a line running from the North Pole along meridian 10° West of Greenwich to its intersection with parallel 72° North; thence by great circle arc to the intersection of meridian 50° West and parallel 40° North; thence by great circle arc to the intersection of meridian 20° West and parallel 10° South; thence along meridian 20° West to the South Pole.
Active members include media organisations, whose broadcasts are often made available to at least 98% of households in their own country which are equipped to receive such transmissions.
If an EBU Active Member wishes to participate they must fulfil conditions as laid down by the rules of the contest. A separate copy is drafted annually. As of 2015[update], this included the necessity to have broadcast the previous year's programme within their country. After Russia's withdrawal from the 2017 event in Ukraine, and Channel 1 Russia's refusal to air the event, there is some confusion as to whether this rule still exists. C1R did enter a song in 2018, which was voted out of the competition at the semi-final.
A common misconception is that Eurovision participants have to be from Europe. However, that's not true, any full EBU member is eligible for participation. Furthermore, associate members are eligible for participation since Eurovision 2017, as long as the Eurovision Reference Group approves it (on a case-by-case basis). As of 2019[update], Australia is the only associate member to have participated.
Eligibility to participate is not determined by geographic inclusion within the continent of Europe, despite the "Euro" in "Eurovision" – nor does it have any relation to the European Union. Several countries geographically outside the boundaries of Europe have competed: Israel, Cyprus and Armenia in Western Asia (Cyprus is a member of the Council of Europe and a member state of the European Union), since 1973, 1981 and 2006 respectively; Australia since 2015 and Morocco, in North Africa, in the 1980 competition alone. In addition, several transcontinental countries with only part of their territory in Europe have competed: Turkey, since 1975; Russia, since 1994; Georgia, since 2007; and Azerbaijan, which made its first appearance in the 2008 edition.
Fifty-two countries have participated at least once. These are listed here alongside the year in which they made their début:
- a) Before German reunification in 1990 Germany was presented once as 'West Germany' (at the 1976 contest). East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) never competed. At all other contests the country was presented as 'Germany' (and in 1967 as the 'Federal Republic of Germany').
- b) The entries presented as being from "Yugoslavia" represented the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, except for the 1992 entry, which represented the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This nation dissolved in 1991/92 into five independent states: Slovenia, Croatia, North Macedonia (as Macedonia/FYROM), Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reconstituted itself as Serbia and Montenegro in 2003—entered the contest in 2004—and finally dissolved in 2006, making two separate states: Serbia and Montenegro; both of which made their début in the contest in 2007, the winner that year being Serbia.
- c) Before the Prespa agreement in 2018 presented as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
- d) The participation of Australia was intended to be a one-off event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Contest unless they won in 2015 in which case they would have been allowed to defend their crown in 2016. However it was revealed in May 2015 that Australia might become a permanent participant following some reports by Jon Ola Sand to the Swedish broadcaster. In November 2015, the EBU announced that Australia would return in 2016 and after this the country would become an effective participant in the contest.
Most of the expense of the contest is covered by commercial sponsors and contributions from the other participating nations. The contest is considered to be a unique opportunity for promoting the host country as a tourist destination. In the summer of 2005, Ukraine abolished its normal visa requirement for visitors from the EU to coincide with its hosting of the event.
Preparations for the event start a matter of weeks after the host wins in the previous year, and confirms to the EBU that they intend to—and have the capacity to—host the event. A host city is chosen—often a national or regional capital city—and a suitable concert venue is identified. The two largest concert venues were Parken in Copenhagen (which held approximately 38,000 people when Denmark hosted in 2001) and the Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf (which held approximately 36,500 people when Germany hosted in 2011). The smallest town to have been hosts was Millstreet in County Cork, Ireland, in 1993. The village had a population of 1,500—although the Green Glens Arena venue could hold up to 8,000 people.
The hotel and press facilities in the vicinity are always a consideration when choosing a host city and venue. In Kiev 2005, hotel rooms were scarce as the contest organisers asked the Ukrainian government to put a block on bookings they did not control themselves through official delegation allocations or tour packages: this led to many people's hotel bookings being cancelled.
After the first two contests were hosted by Switzerland and Germany, it was decided that henceforth the winning country would host the contest the next year. The winner of the 1957 contest was the Netherlands, and Dutch television accepted the responsibility of hosting in 1958. In all but five of the years since this rule has been in place, the winning country has hosted the show the following year. The exceptions are:
- 1960—hosted by the BBC in London when the Netherlands declined due to expense. The UK was chosen to host because it had come second in 1959.
- 1963—hosted by the BBC in London when France declined due to expense, as did second- and third-placed Monaco and Luxembourg when offered hosting duties.
- 1972—hosted by the BBC in Edinburgh when Monaco was unable to provide a suitable venue: Monegasque television invited the BBC to take over due to its previous experience.
- 1974—hosted by the BBC in Brighton when Luxembourg declined due to expense. The BBC was becoming known as the host by default, if the winning country declined (though 1980 was an exception).
- 1980—hosted by the NOS in The Hague when Israel declined due to expense, having staged the 1979 event in Jerusalem, and the fact that the date chosen for the contest (19 April) was Israel's Remembrance Day that year. The Dutch offered to host the contest after several other broadcasters (including the BBC) were unwilling to do so. The reluctance of those national broadcasters to stage the contest were due to already having hosted the event during the past couple of years, in addition to the expense involved.
With the invitation of Australia to participate since 2015, it was announced that due to the logistical and financial issues that would occur if Australia were to host, in the event of an Australian victory, the broadcaster SBS will co-host the next contest in a European city in collaboration with an EBU member broadcaster of their choice. However, this has yet to happen and since 1981, all contests have been held in the country which won the previous year.
Eurovision logo and theme
The original generic logo was introduced for the 2004 contest, to create a consistent visual identity. The host country's flag appears in the heart of the generic logo. Each year of the contest, the host country creates a sub-theme which is usually accompanied and expressed with a sub-logo and slogan. The theme and slogan are announced by the EBU and the host country's national broadcaster.
The generic logo was revamped in 2014, ten years after the first generic logo was created. The revamped logo was conducted by lead designer Cornelis Jacobs and his team of Cityzen Agency. The logo was used for the first time in the 2015 contest, the 60th edition of the contest.
Beginning with the 2002 contest, a slogan has been associated with each contest (except in 2009). The slogan is decided by the host broadcaster and is then used to develop a visual design for the contest. A slogan was also selected for the 2020 contest before its cancellation.
|Year||Host country||Host city||Slogan|
|2002||Estonia||Tallinn||A Modern Fairytale|
|2004||Turkey||Istanbul||Under the Same Sky|
|2006||Greece||Athens||Feel the Rhythm!|
|2008||Serbia||Belgrade||Confluence of Sound|
|2010||Norway||Oslo||Share the Moment|
|2011||Germany||Düsseldorf||Feel Your Heart Beat!|
|2012||Azerbaijan||Baku||Light Your Fire!|
|2013||Sweden||Malmö||We Are One|
|2019||Israel||Tel Aviv||Dare to Dream|
The term "Eurovision Week" is used to refer to the week during which the Contest takes place. As it is a live show, the Eurovision Song Contest requires the performers to have perfected their acts in rehearsals for the programme to run smoothly. In addition to rehearsals in their home countries, every participant is given the opportunity to rehearse on the stage in the Eurovision auditorium. These rehearsals are held during the course of several days before the Saturday show, and consequently the delegations arrive in the host city many days before the event. Journalists and fans are also present during the preceding days, and so the events of Eurovision last a lot longer than a few hours of television. A number of officially accredited hotels are selected for the delegations to stay in, and shuttle-bus services are used to transport the performers and accompanying people to and from the contest venue.
Each participating broadcaster nominates a Head of Delegation, whose job it is to co-ordinate the movements of the delegate members, and who acts as that country's representative to the EBU in the host city. Members of the delegations include performers, lyricists, composers, official press officers and—in the years where songs were performed with a live orchestra—a conductor. Also present if desired is a commentator: each broadcaster may supply their own commentary for their TV and/or radio feed, to be broadcast in each country. The commentators are given dedicated commentary booths situated around the back of the arena behind the audience.
Rehearsals and press conferences
Since 2004, the first rehearsals have commenced on the Sunday almost two weeks before the Grand Final. There are two rehearsal periods for each country. The countries taking part in the semi-finals have their first rehearsal over four days from the first Sunday to Wednesday. The second is from Thursday to Sunday. The countries which have already directly qualified for the Grand Final rehearse on the Saturday and Sunday.
After each country has rehearsed, the delegation meets with the show's production team in the viewing room. Here, they watch the footage of the rehearsal just performed. At this point the Delegation may make known any special requirements or changes needed for the performance, and request them to the host broadcaster. Following this meeting, the delegation hold a press conference where members of the accredited press may pose them questions. The rehearsals and press conferences are held in parallel; so one country holds its press conference, while the next one is in the auditorium rehearsing. A printed summary of the questions and answers which emerge from the press conferences is produced by the host press office, and distributed to journalists' pigeon-holes. However, for the 2020 contest in Rotterdam (rescheduled for 2021), pigeon holes will not be used, in an effort to modernise the exchange of information.
Before each of the semi-finals three dress rehearsals are held. Two rehearsals are held the day before (one in the afternoon and the other in the evening), while the third is held on the afternoon of the live event. Since tickets to the live shows are often scarce, tickets are also sold so the public may attend these dress rehearsals.
The same applies for the final, with two rehearsals on the Friday and the third on Saturday afternoon before the live transmission of the grand final on Saturday evening. For both semi-finals and for the final, the second dress rehearsal is also the Jury Final, this is where the jury from each country casts their votes. This means that 50% of the result is already decided before the live contests have taken place.
Parties and Euroclub
On the Monday evening of Eurovision Week, a Mayor's Reception is traditionally held, where the city administration hosts a celebration that Eurovision has come to their city. This is usually held in a grand municipally owned location in the city centre. All delegations are invited, and the party is usually accompanied by live music, complimentary food and drink and—in recent years—fireworks.
After the semi-final and grand final there are after-show parties, held either in a facility in the venue complex or in another suitable location within the city.
During the week many delegations have traditionally hosted their own parties in addition to the officially sponsored ones. However, in the new millennium the trend has been for the national delegations to centralise their activity and hold their celebrations in the Euroclub.
Numerous detailed rules must be observed by the participating nations, and a new version is produced each year, for instance the rules specify various deadlines, including the date by which all the participating broadcasters must submit the final recorded version of their song to the EBU. The rules also cover sponsorship agreements and rights of broadcasters to re-transmit the show. The most notable rules which affect the format and presentation of the contest have changed over the years, and are highlighted here.
All vocals must be sung live; no voices are permitted on the backing tracks. In 1999, the Croatian song performed by Doris Dragović and composed by Tonči Huljić featured sounds on their backing track which sounded suspiciously like human voices. The Croatian delegation stated that there were no human voices, but only digitally synthesised sounds which replicated vocals. The EBU nevertheless decided that they had broken the spirit of the rules, and docked them 33% of their points total that year for the purpose of calculating their five-year points average for future qualification.
From 1956 until 1998, the host country was required to provide a live orchestra. Before 1973, all music had to be played by the host orchestra. From 1973 onwards, pre-recorded, non-vocal backing tracks were permitted—although the host country was still obliged to provide a live orchestra to give participants a choice. If a backing track was used, then all the instruments heard on the track were required to be present on the stage. In 1997 this requirement was dropped.
In 1999 the requirement for a live orchestra was removed: it was left as an optional contribution. The host that year, Israel's IBA, decided not to use an orchestra to save expenses, and thus 1999 was the first year when all the songs were played as pre-recorded backing tracks (in conjunction with live vocals). Since then, a live orchestra has not been used at the contest.
Each submission must have vocals; purely instrumental music has never been allowed. In the past, competitors have been required to sing in one of their own national languages, but this rule has been changed several times over the years. From 1956 until 1965, there was no rule restricting the languages in which the songs could be sung. In 1966, a rule was imposed stating that the songs must be performed in one of the official languages of the country participating, after Sweden was the first country to not sing in their own language, with opera singer Ingvar Wixell performing Sweden's 1965 entry in English. The Swedish-language version of the song was originally selected at Melodifestivalen 1965, but it was later translated into English for the Eurovision contest.
The language restriction continued until 1973, when performers were again allowed to sing in any language they wished. Several winners in the mid-1970s took advantage of this: performers from non-English-speaking countries sang in English, including ABBA in 1974. In 1977, the EBU decided to revert to the national language restriction. However, special dispensation was given to Germany and Belgium as their national selections had already taken place before the decision was made; both countries' entries that year were in English. In 1999, the rule was changed again to allow the choice of language once more, which resulted in 12 out of 23 countries, including the United Kingdom, singing in English that year. Belgium entered the 2003 contest with "Sanomi", a song sung in a constructed language, finishing in second place. In 2006, the Dutch entry, "Amambanda", was sung partly in English and partly in an artificial language. In 2008, the Belgian entry, "O Julissi", was sung in an artificial language. In 2011, the Norwegian entry, "Haba Haba", which was sung in English and Swahili, was the second song to be sung in an African language, after Arabic.
Since the language rule was abolished in 1999, songs in English have become increasingly common. In 2016, all but three out of 36 semi-finalists had songs in English, with only two (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia) performing songs in their native languages, as Austria sent a song in French. In the final, all but three out of 26 contestants had songs in English. After Salvador Sobral's win in 2017 with a Portuguese-language song, the 2018 edition saw a significant increase in the use of native languages, with twelve of 43 participants singing in their country's native language (not including Estonia, whose representative opted to sing in Italian). In 2019, nine of the songs were performed totally in different languages, while four others mixed English with their native languages.
There is a language rule for the hosts. At least one of them must be able to speak French.
The voting system used in the contest has changed over the years. The current system has been in place since 2016, and is a positional voting system. Each country awards two sets of 12, 10, 8–1 points to their 10 favourite songs: one from their professional jury of votes of five music professionals and the other from televoting.
Historically, a country's votes were decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success, and from 1998 onwards all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. Back-up juries are still used by each country, in the event of a televoting failure. Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS, in addition to televoting. In every case, every country cannot vote for its own song From 2013, the public may also vote via a mobile app.
The current method for ranking entries, introduced in 2016, is to sum together the points calculated from the telephone vote and the jury separately. Prior to this, the jury and televoting rankings were combined 50/50 before the number of points were calculated. It was first used in the final of the 2009 edition, and extended the following year to the semi-finals. According to one study of Eurovision voting patterns, certain countries tend to form "clusters" or "cliques" by frequently voting in the same way.
Scrutineers and executive supervisors
Since 1964 the voting has been presided over by the EBU scrutineer, who is responsible for ensuring that all points are allocated correctly and in turn. Since 2011, the Executive Supervisor was supported by an Event Supervisor, to oversee and coordinate all event-related matters on behalf of the EBU. Sietse Bakker served in the role for the first six years, replaced by Nadja Burkhardt.
The following are the scrutineers and Executive Supervisors of the Eurovision Song Contest appointed by the EBU:
|United Kingdom||Clifford Brown||1966–1977||12|
|France||Christine Marchal-Ortiz||1996, 1998–2002||6|
|United Kingdom||Sarah Yuen||2003||1|
|Norway||Jon Ola Sand||2011–2020||9 (1 cancelled)|
Presentation of votes
After the interval act is over, when all the points have been calculated, the presenter(s) of the show call upon each voting country in turn to invite them to announce the results of their vote. Prior to 1994 the announcements were made over telephone lines; with the audio being piped into the auditorium for the audience to hear, and over the television transmission. However, since and including 1994 the announcements have been presented visually. Often the opportunity is taken by each country to show their spokesperson standing in front of a backdrop which includes a famous place in that country. For example, the French spokesperson might be seen standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or an Italian presenter might be seen with the Colosseum in the background.
From 1994 to 1999, some countries did not have their spokesperson in front of a backdrop of a famous place, instead opting to show the spokesperson in the studio or in a famous building, for example when Malta presented their votes from a hotel in the country in 1995, or have them standing behind a blurred image of the famous building or skyline. From the 2000s, new technology meant that the spokespersons could be standing behind a live video of a famous place in that country. There have also been occasions where the backdrop of the spokesperson is not a still image or video, but instead is a slideshow of multiple shots of many of that country's famous buildings.
From 1957 to 1962, the participating countries were called in reverse order of the presentation of their songs, and from 1963 to 2003, they were called in the same order in which their songs had been presented (except for 1974). Since 2004, when semi-finals were introduced, the order of the countries' announcements of votes has changed; and the countries that did not make it to the final each year could also vote. In 2004, the countries were called in alphabetical order (according to their two-letter ISO codes). In 2005, the votes from the non-qualifying semi-finalists were announced first, in their running order on the Thursday night; then the finalists gave their votes in their own order of performance. Between 2006 and 2010, like in 1974, a separate draw was held to determine the order in which countries would present their votes. From 2011 to 2015, the voting order was determined by the results of a jury the day before the final so as to create as much suspense as possible when the votes were revealed. Since 2016, the first country to announce their votes is the country that hosted the previous year, while the last country to announce their votes is the current host.
From 1971 to 1973, each country sent two jurors, who were present at the contest venue (though the juries in 1972 were locked away in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle) and announced their votes as the camera was trained on them. In 1973 one of the Swiss jurors presented his votes with flamboyant gestures. This system was retired the next year.
In 1956 no public votes were presented: a closed jury simply announced that Switzerland had won. From 1957 to 1987, the points were displayed on a physical scoreboard to the side of the stage. As digital graphic technology progressed, the physical scoreboards were superseded in 1988 by an electronic representation which could be displayed on the TV screen at the will of the programme's director.
In 2006 the EBU decided to save time during the broadcast—much of which had been taken up with the announcement of every single point—because there was an ever-increasing number of countries voting. Since then, votes from 1 to 7 from each country have been displayed automatically on screen and the remaining points (8, 10 and 12) are read out in ascending order by the spokesperson, culminating with the maximum 12 points. Countries must announce the country names and points in either English or French and the scores are repeated by the contest's presenters in the other language. For this reason, the expression douze points when the host or spokesperson states the top score in French is popularly associated with the contest throughout the continent. Since 2016, only the name of the top jury votegetter is announced, with the points awarded to the other nine countries shown in an on-screen scoreboard during the announcement. In addition, only the jury points are announced by country. The televoting results are announced in aggregate, from the lowest-scoring country to the highest. In the 2019 contest the televoting results were announced in aggregate in inverse standing order based on the jury votes; starting with Spain (7 points from the juries) and culminating in Sweden (239 points from the juries). After the winner has been announced, the televoting points from the country where the contest is watched from are briefly seen on screen.
Ties for first place
In 1969, four of the sixteen countries taking part, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all tied for first place with 18 points each. There was nothing in the rules to decide an outright winner, so all four were declared joint winners. This caused much discontent among most of the other participating countries, and mass walkouts were threatened. Finland, Norway, Sweden and Portugal did not participate in the 1970 Contest as a protest against the results of the previous year. This prompted the EBU to introduce a tie-break rule.
The current tie-break procedure was implemented in the 2016 contest. In the procedure, sometimes known as a countback, if two (or more) countries tie, the song receiving more points from the televote is the winner. If the songs received the same number of televote points, the song that received at least one televote point from the greatest number of countries is the winner. If there is still a tie, a second tie-breaker counts the number of countries who assigned twelve televote points to each entry in the tie. Tie-breaks continue with ten points, eight points, and so on until the tie is resolved. If the tie cannot be resolved after the number of countries which assigned one point to the song is equal, the song performed earlier in the running order is declared the winner, unless the host country performed earlier (in which case the song performed later would be the winner). The tie-break procedure originally applied only to first place ties, but since 2008 has been applied to all places.
As of 2020, the only time since 1969 when two or more countries have tied for first place on total points alone was in 1991, when France and Sweden both totalled 146 points. At that time, there was no televote, and the tie break was to determine which country had received the most sets of twelve points, then ten points, and so on. Both France and Sweden had received four sets of 12 points, but Sweden had received more sets of 10-point scores, they were declared the winners. Had the current predominant tiebreaker been in play, France would have won instead by virtue of receiving points from more overall countries.
Each participating broadcaster is required to broadcast the show in its entirety: including all songs, recap, voting and reprise, skipping only the interval act for advertising breaks if they wish. From 1999 onwards, broadcasters who wished to do so were given the opportunity to take more advertising breaks as short, non-essential hiatuses were introduced into the programme. Four major interruptions or preemptions of the contest broadcast have taken place since 1999. The Dutch state broadcaster pulled their broadcast of the 2000 final to provide emergency news coverage of a major incident, the Enschede fireworks disaster. Spain's RTVE delayed their broadcast of the second semi-final in the 2009 Contest, due to the Madrid Open tennis tournament. The Albanian state broadcaster deferred their broadcast of the first semi-final in 2012 to provide emergency news coverage of the Qafa e Vishës bus accident.
In 2018, Chinese broadcaster Mango TV edited the Albanian and Irish songs out of their broadcast of the first semi-final for violations of Chinese broadcast regulations. The Albanian performer had visible tattoos, and the Irish song featured a storyline showing vignettes of a homosexual couple. Eurovision terminated Mango's broadcasting rights when the broadcaster refused to agree to air the second semi-final and the grand final unedited.
The first edition ever of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 was broadcast live, but not recorded, so only a sound recording of the radio transmission has survived from the original broadcast. Initially only an audio recording of the ninth edition in 1964 hosted by Danmarks Radio was said to exist, though later a video recording was found in the French TV archives. Only small portions of the original broadcast and audio from the radio transmission have survived.
In late 2011, the EBU had begun archiving all the contests since the first edition in 1956 to be finalised before the 2015 Contest, for the 60th anniversary. It was later reported that the archive is ready and will be released on the 60th anniversary with making the content available to journalists in broadcast-ready formats while also giving public accessibility to "selected content" through the official Eurovision website.[needs update]
Political recognition issues
In 1978, hosted in Paris only a month after the 1978 South Lebanon conflict, during the performance of the Israeli entry, the Jordanian broadcaster JRTV suspended the broadcast and showed pictures of flowers. When it became apparent during the later stages of the voting sequence that Israel's song "A-Ba-Ni-Bi" was going to win the contest, JRTV abruptly ended the transmission. Afterwards, the Jordanian news media refused to acknowledge that Israel had won and announced that the winner was Belgium (who had actually come in 2nd place). In 1981 JRTV did not broadcast the voting because the name of Israel appeared on the scoreboard.
In 2005, Lebanon intended to participate in the contest. However, Lebanese law does not allow recognition of Israel, and consequently Lebanese broadcaster Télé Liban did not intend to transmit the Israeli entry. The EBU informed them that such an act would breach the rules of the contest, and Lebanon was subsequently forced to withdraw from the competition. Their late withdrawal incurred a fine, since they had already confirmed their participation and the deadline had passed. However, the Eurovision Song Contest albums were still being sold in Lebanese music stores until 2009, with the word Israel erased from the back cover. As of 2010[update], the albums were banned completely from sale.
In 2009, the song "We Don't Wanna Put In" was selected to represent Georgia. However, the song text was banned by Eurovision as it was interpreted as criticism against Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin after the Russo-Georgian War the previous year. When asked to change the lyrics of the song, the Georgian broadcaster GPB withdrew from the 2009 contest.
In the 1998 contest, Dana International was sent to compete to represent Israel to perform the song "Diva". International is a transgender woman and her victory displayed the notion that Eurovision was a place where it was safe to be openly LGBTQ. Eurovision created a queer identity for itself by embracing non-heteronormative performers and their performances. Although most of the European public are accepting of this identity, Russian media has had negative reactions to some of the openly queer productions.
- In the first contest, 1956, there was a recommended time limit of 31⁄2 minutes per song. In 1957, despite protests, Italy's song was 5:09 minutes in duration. This led to a stricter time limit of 3 minutes precisely. Since the three-minute time limit was adopted in 1960, some artists have had songs longer than three minutes, which must be edited down to 3 minutes, though some songs exceed that time by a few seconds. Many of the entries also have longer versions (including different languages) for commercial release, and since the 1990s, some are released in additional remixed versions.
- The EBU imposes no restrictions on the nationalities of the performers or songwriters. Individual broadcasters are, however, permitted to impose their own restrictions at their discretion. About a dozen artists have performed more than once in the Contest representing different countries, and some of the winners were not born in the country they represented.
- From 1957 to 1970 (in 1956 there was no restriction at all) only soloists and duos were allowed on stage. From 1963, a chorus of up to three people was permitted. Since 1971, a maximum of six performers have been permitted on the stage.
- The performance and/or lyrics of a song "must not bring the Contest into disrepute". No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature are permitted. No swearing or unacceptable language is allowed, neither are commercial messages.
- Prior to 1990, there was no performer age limit. From 1990 to 2003, all performers were required to be at least 16 years of age by the end of the year in which the contest was held. In 2004, this was amended to the current rule, which requires all performers to be at least 16 years of age by the time of the contest.
- Live animals are prohibited.
- Each artist may perform for only one country per year.
- The music and text must not have been published or performed before 1 September of the year before the contest is held. Many countries also have the additional rule that the song shall never have been performed before the relevant national Eurovision Contest. Covers, reworked or sampled versions of older songs are not allowed.
Expansion of the contest
The number of countries participating has steadily grown over time, from seven in 1956 to over 20 in the late 1980s. In 1993, twenty-five countries participated in the competition, including, for the first time, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia, entering independently due to the dissolution of Yugoslavia. In the most recent edition in 2019, a total of 41 countries took part, with 26 appearing in the final.
Because the contest is a live television programme, a reasonable time limit must be imposed on the duration of the show. In recent years the nominal limit has been four hours, with the broadcast occasionally over-running.
Pre-selections and relegation
Since 1993, and following the cessation of the Eastern European OIRT network and the merger with the EBU, there have been more entries than there is time to reasonably include in a single TV show. Several relegation or qualification systems have been tried to limit the number of countries participating in the contest at one time. Thus the 1993 Contest introduced two new features: first, a pre-selection competition was held in Ljubljana in which seven new countries fought for three places in the international competition. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia took part in Kvalifikacija za Millstreet; and the three former Yugoslav republics, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia, qualified for a place in the international final. Also to be introduced that year was "relegation": the lowest-placed countries in the 1993 score table were not invited in 1994, to allow the countries which failed the 1993 pre-selection into the 1994 Contest. The 1994 Contest included—for the first time—Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Russia.
Relegation continued in 1994 and 1995; but in 1996 a different pre-selection system was used, in which nearly all the countries participated. Audio tapes of all the songs were sent to juries in each of the countries some weeks before the television show. These juries selected the songs which would be included in the international broadcast. Norway, as the host country in 1996 (having won the previous year), automatically qualified and so did not need to go through pre-selection.
One country which failed to qualify in the 1996 pre-selection was Germany. As one of the largest financial contributors to the EBU, their non-participation in the contest brought about a funding issue, which the EBU would have to consider.
Big Four and Big Five
Since 2000, France, Germany, Spain and United Kingdom have automatically qualified for the final, regardless of their positions on the scoreboard in previous contests, as they are the four biggest financial contributors to the EBU. These countries became known as the "Big Four". On 31 December 2010, it was announced that Italy would compete in the Eurovision Song Contest after a fourteen-year absence and that it would also automatically qualify for the final, joining the other four qualifiers to become the "Big Five". Germany became the first and, as of 2019[update], the only "Big Five" country to win the contest since the rule was made in 2000, when Lena Meyer-Landrut won the 2010 Contest. Turkey withdrew from the 2013 Contest with the status of the "Big Five" being one of the reasons cited. They also did not participate in the following 6 years of contests (2014–19) for similar reasons, as well as stating their opposition to the 50/50 jury and televoting system that began being applied in the final of the 2009 Contest.
The Big Four/Five countries pay approximately five to six times the participation fee of a "standard" participating country, effectively subsidizing smaller European broadcasters, thus allowing them to be able to afford entry into the competition. Without the contribution of The Big Five it is estimated that the participation cost for a "standard" country would be double what they currently pay.
It is sometimes discussed whether the Big 5 measure benefits or prejudicates the countries' performances in the contest. Since its creation, countries of the Big Five have placed last in 8 of the latest 15 contests (2003, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019). The only Big 5 country that has never finished last since the introduction of this concept is Italy: since its return in 2011, the country has been successful, and placed in the top 10 seven times out of 9 contests, including four times in the top 5, a third place and twice as the runner up; its worst place was a 21st in 2014. Some measures have been taken by the EBU to give the Big 5 contestants a similar status to those competing at the semi-finals, such as broadcasting extended snippets of their acts in the semi-final interval.
Qualification and semi-finals
From 1997 to 2001, countries qualified for each contest based on the average of their points totals for their entries over the previous five years. However, there was much discontent voiced over this system because a country could be excluded merely because of poor previous results, which did not take into account how good a fresh attempt might be. The worst example of this was that Bosnia and Herzegovina finished 7th with 86 points in the 1999 Contest, but it wasn't enough to save the country being relegated from taking part in the 2000 Contest. As a result, the EBU reverted to the older relegation system for the 2002 and 2003 contests. Soon, the EBU created what was hoped would be a more permanent solution to the problem. A qualification round, known as the semi-final, was introduced for the 2004 Contest. This semi-final was held on the Wednesday during Eurovision Week, and was a programme similar in format to the grand final, whose time slot remained 19:00 UTC on the Saturday. The highest-placed songs from the semi-final qualified for the grand final, while the lower-placed songs were eliminated. From 2005 to 2007, the semi-final programme was held on the Thursday of Eurovision Week. In these two shows there was enough time to include all the countries who wished to participate.
The ten highest-placed non-Big Four countries in the "grand final" were guaranteed a place in the following year's grand final, without having to qualify. If, for example, Germany came in the top ten, the eleventh-placed non-Big-Four country would automatically qualify for the next year's grand final. The remaining countries—which had not automatically qualified for the grand final—had to enter the semi-final.
At the 50th annual meeting of the EBU reference group in September 2007, it was decided that, with still more nations entering, starting from the 2008 contest onwards two semi-finals would be held, from each of which one could qualify for the final. From 2008 onwards, the scoreboard position in previous years has not been relevant, and—save for the automatic qualifiers—all participating countries have had to participate in the semi-finals, regardless of their previous year's scoreboard position. The only countries which automatically qualify for the grand final are the host country and the Big Five: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, who continue to enjoy their protected status.
In each of the semi-finals the voting is conducted among those countries which participate in that semi-final. With regard to the automatic grand final qualifiers, who do not participate in the semi-finals, a draw is conducted to determine in which semi-final each of them will be allowed to vote. In contrast, every participating country in a particular year may vote in the Saturday grand final – whether their song qualified for the final or not.
The ten countries which receive the most votes in each semi-final qualify for the grand final. They are announced by the presenters in English and French, in a random order. Full voting results are withheld until after the grand final, whereupon they are published on the EBU's website. To date only two countries have always qualified to the Final since the implementation of the semi-finals system in 2004: Australia and Ukraine.
Below is a chart of qualification percentage depending on times qualified/participated. For example, if a country has participated 9 times and has qualified 7 of them, it has qualified (7/9*100) = (0.777*100) = 77.77% of participation, or roughly 78% as shown below.
As of 2019[update], Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins, having won the contest seven times. Sweden is second with six wins. France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are joint third with five wins each. Israel holds four victories. Denmark and Norway have both won three times, six countries have won twice, while 12 countries have won once. A further 24 countries have participated, but have yet to win.
The United Kingdom holds the record for the highest number of runner-up placings, coming in second on no fewer than 15 occasions as of 2019[update]. Germany, Russia, France, Spain and Ireland have four runner-up entries. Norway holds the record for finishing in last place in the final the most times: eleven.
Israel is the only non-European country to win four times. Most recently in 2018 with Netta Barzilai and Toy, who won with 529 points
Croatia is the only country to have never won the contest as its current state, but has provided a winner for a former state - Yugoslavia. In 1989, Yugoslavia won the contest with "Rock Me" performed by Riva, who won the Yugoslav selection competition that year representing (along with 2 more acts) the Yugoslav Socialist Republic of Croatia. The 1990 contest was subsequently held in Zagreb, now the capital of Croatia.
The early years of the contest saw many wins for "traditional" Eurovision countries: France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. However, the success of these countries has declined in recent decades; France last won in 1977 and Luxembourg, in 1983. The Netherlands won again in 2019. Luxembourg last entered the contest in 1993.
The first years of the 21st century produced numerous first-time winners, from both "new" and long-serving countries who had previously entered numerous times but without victories. Every year from 2001 to 2008 inclusive, a country won for its first time. Estonia was the first post-Soviet country to win the competition in 2001. Latvia won for the first time in 2002. In 2003, Turkey won for the first time. In 2005, Greece won for the first time, 15 years after the last Southern European country won, i.e. Italy in 1990. Overall the South of Europe won the competition only six times (seven if Serbia is included). The 2006 winner was Finland's Lordi, earning Finland's first win after having entered the contest for 45 years. Ukraine on the other hand did not have to wait so long, winning with only their second entry in 2004. Notably Conchita Wurst's win in 2014 broke a 48-year losing run for Austria since their 1966 win. The contest was won by Russia in 2008.
Serbia won the very first year it entered as an independent state, in 2007, with the Serbian-language ballad "Molitva". In 2004, Serbia and Montenegro also almost won the initial year it entered as a competitor state, finishing second behind Ukraine, also with a ballad in Serbian language. Other relatively quick winners were Latvia, who won in 2002, only their third year competing, and Azerbaijan, who won in 2011 in their fourth year in the competition.
When Portugal won in 2017, they ended a 49-year run of entering without a win, beating Finland's previous record of 45 years. Cyprus now leads this record, with 35 years without a win, achieving their highest score, second, in 2018. Malta is the most successful country without a win, achieving two-second places and two third places.
In 2009, Norway won the contest with 387 points – Alexander Rybak held the winning title with his song "Fairytale". His performance meant he had the highest total in the history of the competition, becoming the first competitor to score 300 or more points, including 16 maximum scores. This feat was emulated in 2012 when Sweden won with 372 points, with a new record of 18 maximum scores. In 2015, Sweden won the contest with 365 points, becoming the first country to ever reach 300 points or more twice while winning both times. Russia placed second with 303 points, becoming the first country to score more than 300 points without winning.
In 2016 the scoring system was changed, making much easier to achieve over 300 points. The winner – Jamala of Ukraine, reached 534 points, and all of top 9 scored 200 or more points, and 25 of the 26 positions got their highest points ever. This feat was extended in 2017 when Salvador Sobral beat Ukraine's points record by 224 points, getting 758 points in total, in addition to Bulgaria beating the same score by 81 points with a total amount of 615 points. Had Portugal won under the previous voting system it would still have had the highest total ever with 417 points, becoming the first competitor to score 400 or more points, theoretically setting a new record of 20 maximum scores (beating Norway and Sweden).
Since the introduction of the 50/50 voting system in 2009, the juries and the voters have disagreed on the winner on five occasions in 2011, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. 2011 winner Azerbaijan won the televotes (jury votes were won by Italy) and 2015 winner Sweden won the jury votes (televotes were won by Italy). In 2016, Ukraine did not win either the jury vote or the televote, but won the contest with the highest combined vote. The televote was won by Russia and the jury vote by Australia. In 2018, eventual winner Israel won the televote but came in third with the jury vote (won by Austria). In 2019, Netherlands placed third with the juries (North Macedonia first, Sweden second) and second with the televote (Norway first). The Netherlands had the highest combined vote and thus they won the contest.
Since 2008 the winner has been awarded an official winner's trophy of the Eurovision Song Contest that is presented by the previous year's winning artist. The trophy is a handmade piece of sandblasted glass in the shape of a 1950s microphone. The songwriters and composers of the winning entry receive smaller versions of the trophy. The original design was created by Kjell Engman of Kosta Boda, who specialises in glass art.
There have been a number of Eurovision artists and groups whose careers were directly launched into the spotlight following their win. Notable examples were ABBA, who won the contest for Sweden in 1974 with their song "Waterloo", and went on to become one of the most successful pop bands in history; the French Canadian singer Céline Dion, who won the contest for Switzerland in 1988 with the song "Ne partez pas sans moi", which subsequently helped launch her international career; and the winners of the 1981 contest, Bucks Fizz for the United Kingdom with the song "Making Your Mind Up", which also launched a successful international career.
Other artists who have achieved varying degrees of success after winning the contest include France Gall ("Poupée de cire, poupée de son", Luxembourg 1965), Dana ("All Kinds of Everything", Ireland 1970), Vicky Leandros ("Après toi", Luxembourg 1972), Brotherhood of Man ("Save Your Kisses for Me", United Kingdom 1976), and Johnny Logan (who won twice for Ireland, with "What's Another Year" in 1980 and "Hold Me Now" in 1987). As of the 2020 contest, he remains the only artist to have won more than once as a performer.
Several other winners were well-known artists who won the contest mid-career after they had already established themselves, including Katrina and the Waves, winners in 1997 with "Love Shine a Light", Lulu, winner in 1969 with "Boom Bang-a-Bang", and Sandie Shaw, winner in 1967 with "Puppet on a String". Women have dominated the contest since its inception, with 38 solo female wins, notably including the first two winners, all four winners in the infamous 1969 contest, and the two entries that initially tied for the win in 1991 before Sweden, represented by Carola, won the tie-breaker and claimed sole victory. A further 11 victories feature women as members of duos or groups, though these are mostly mixed-gender, including ABBA's win in 1974 and Brotherhood of Man in 1976, meaning women have been present on 49 of the 67 total winning entries as of 2019[update]. The 2017 winner was a solo male performance by Salvador Sobral. However, his sister and the song's composer Luísa Sobral joined him for the winner's reprise.
Interval acts and guest appearances
Since 1960, the tradition of interval acts between the songs in the competition programme and the announcement of the voting has been established. Among these acts, there are usually the previous winner, performances devoted to the history of the Eurovision Song Contest, as well as representatives of the traditional music scene of the host country. One of the interval performances was the first public appearance of Riverdance, a theatrical show consisting mainly of traditional Irish music and dance, in 1994. Riverdance was later performed as an interval act at both the Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest (2005) and Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits (2015) events.
Interval and opening entertainment has included such acts as pop superstars Madonna (2019), Justin Timberlake (2016), Aqua (2001) and t.A.T.u. (2009), but also violinist Vanessa-Mae (1998) and world music artists Goran Bregović (2008), Alim Qasimov (2012) and Mariza (2018). The world-renowned Cirque du Soleil (2009), Alexandrov Ensemble (2009), Vienna Boys' Choir (1967 and 2015), Fire of Anatolia (2004), Metropole Orkest (2008) and Prague Theatre of Illuminated Drawings (1984) also performed on the Eurovision stage. A flashmob-styled performance with Madcon performing "Glow", alongside live and taped footage of public outdoor dance events from across Europe, was the interval act for 2010. Other interval acts include recorded footage of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (1972), circus clown Charlie Rivel (1973), quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti (1991) and mentalist Lior Suchard (2019).
The 1999 event in Jerusalem finished with the three presenters (Yigal Ravid, Sigal Shachmon, and Dafna Dekel) inviting everyone on stage to sing a rendition of the English version of "Hallelujah", the Israeli winner from the 1979 Contest, as a tribute to the victims of the Balkan War (particularly FR Yugoslavia, which was banned from participation as penalty for the Balkan Wars). However, due to NATO's bombing of the Serbian television headquarters, the Eurovision was not broadcast in Serbia that year.
In recognition of Australia's love affair with the annual event, the interval act for the second semi-final in 2014 was a presentation by Australia featuring Jessica Mauboy who performed "Sea of Flags". Her appearance marked the first time Australia had been represented at Eurovision and was first solo artist from a non-participating country to perform as a guest. Since 2014 the winners of the most recent Junior Eurovision Song Contest also make a guest appearance during one of the three shows, typically at the Grand Final (however this was moved to the first semi-final for the 2019 contest) and are interviewed at a press conference held for the junior contest.
Special guests of Eurovision Song Contest have been also well-known athletes, such as boxers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko (2005), tennis player Novak Djokovic (2008 first semi-final) and retired basketball player Vlade Divac (2008 Grand Final), who opened the televoting. In 2003, Elton John spoke to the presenters live from the Life Ball in Vienna and one astronaut and one cosmonaut—Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko—gave their greetings from the International Space Station (ISS). Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata opened the televoting for the Grand Final in 2009 during the Expedition 19 flight to the ISS. Tennis player Ana Ivanovic (2008), footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović (2013) and an actress and model Gal Gadot (2019) have appeared in the promotional videos about the host city.
Since 2013, the tradition of opening the Grand Final with the "Parade of Nations" or the "Flag Parade" has been established, similar to the Olympic Games opening ceremony. In 2016, the parade was themed as a tribute to Swedish fashion design and dance music with artists being welcomed on stage in a catwalk fashion show with flags being projected onto 26 dresses designed by Bea Szenfeld. In 2015 the parade was made for all the 3 evenings (both semi-finals and final)
Songs of Europe
In 1981, a concert television programme was held to commemorate the contest's twenty-fifth anniversary. The event, entitled Songs of Europe, took place in Mysen, Norway, featuring nearly all the winners of the contest, from 1956 to 1981. It was hosted by Rolf Kirkvaag and Titten Tei.
Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest
In 2005, the EBU had agreed with the Danish broadcaster, DR, to produce a programme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Eurovision Song Contest. The show, entitled Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest after Cliff Richard's 1968 entry for the United Kingdom, was held in Copenhagen, and featured a competition among fourteen of the most popular songs from the last 50 years of the contest. A telephone vote was held to determine the most popular Eurovision song of all-time, which was won by the ABBA song "Waterloo" (winner for Sweden in 1974). The event was hosted by the 1997 Contest winner for the United Kingdom, Katrina Leskanich, and Latvia's representative on its debut at the 2000 Contest, Renārs Kaupers.
Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits
In 2015, the EBU had decided again to commemorate the contest and agreed with the United Kingdom's broadcaster, BBC, to produce a show for the 60th anniversary of the contest, after evaluating several proposals from member broadcasters in regards to the anniversary celebration beyond the 2015 Contest in May. The event, entitled Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits, took place at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London and featured fifteen acts from thirteen countries in the official line-up. Unlike the 50th anniversary show in 2005 which was broadcast live, this event did not feature a competition and was pre-recorded to be televised across Europe and other EBU members on various dates schedule by the respective broadcasters. The event was hosted by the British commentator for Eurovision, Graham Norton, and the host of the 2013 and 2016 Contest, Petra Mede.
Criticism and controversy
The contest has been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical and political content. For example, on rare occasions, certain countries have been booed when performing or receiving points, especially when being given by a neighbour country. Most recently in 2014 and 2015, Russia was heavily booed when it qualified for the final and received high points. The reason for the booing is considered to be due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and opposition to the country's policy on LGBT rights. Fraser Nelson wrote: "I can't remember the last time I heard a Eurovision audience boo anyone; during the Iraq war in 2003, no one booed Britain." Due to the 2019 Contest being held in Israel, some people called on their national broadcasters to boycott the competition over the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Peter Gabriel was among 50 artists who urged the BBC to ask for the contest to be moved out of Israel. In response, the BBC said it was not appropriate "to use the BBC's participation for political reasons".
China's broadcaster Mango TV, which broadcast 2018 Contest for Chinese audiences, was banned from broadcasting Eurovision after it was revealed that Mango TV censored Ireland's same sex dance performance, along with censoring LGBT symbols and tattoos.
Musical style and presentation
Because the songs play to such a diverse international audience with contrasting musical tastes, and countries want to be able to appeal to as many people as possible to gain votes, this has led to the music of the contest being characterised as a "mishmash of power ballads, ethnic rhythms and bubblegum pop". This well-established pattern, however, was broken in 2006 with Finnish metal band Lordi's victory. As Eurovision is a visual show, many performances attempt to attract the attention of the voters through means other than the music, notably elaborate lighting sequences and pyrotechnics; sometimes leading to bizarre on-stage theatrics and costumes, including the use of revealing dress.
Political and geographical voting
The contest has long been accused by some of political bias; the perception is that judges and televoters allocate points based on their nation's relationship to the other countries, rather than the musical merits of the songs. According to one study of Eurovision voting patterns, certain countries tend to form "clusters" or "cliques" by frequently voting in the same way. Another study concludes that as of 2006, voting blocs have, on at least two occasions, crucially affected the outcome of the contest. On the other hand, others argue that certain countries allocate disproportionately high points to others because of similar musical tastes and cultures and because they speak similar languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate each other's music. A recent study in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation presents a new approach which allows an analysis of the whole time-line of the contest (from 1957 to 2017) to investigate collusion and the cluster blocks which have been changing. It allows the analysis to find collusive associations over time periods where the voting scheme is non-homogeneous. The results show a changing pattern in the collusive tendencies previously discussed. The current research into the analysis of the voting patterns has been used in notable sources, such as the Economist, for investigating whether over 10-year periods such collusion is increasing or decreasing.
As an example, Terry Wogan, the United Kingdom's presenter of Eurovision since 1971 and one of the only three presenters mentioned by name during the contest proper stood down from BBC One's broadcast in 2008 saying "The voting used to be about the songs. Now it's about national prejudices. We [the United Kingdom] are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don't want to be presiding over another debacle."
Another influential factor is the high proportion of expatriates and ethnic minorities living in certain countries. Although judges and televoters cannot vote for their own country's entry, expatriates can vote for their country of origin.
The total numbers of points to be distributed by each country are equal, irrespective of the country's population. Thus voters in countries with larger populations have less power as individuals to influence the result of the contest than those voting in smaller countries. For example, San Marino holds the same voting power as Russia despite the vast geographic and population differences between them.
To try to reduce the effect of voting blocs, national juries were re-introduced alongside televoting in the final in 2009: each contributing 50% of the vote. This hybrid system was expanded in 2010 to also be implemented in the semi-finals. However, since 1994 no country has won two years in a row, and semi-finals have also been won by different countries, until 2012 when Sweden won the second semi-final in 2011 and 2012. Although many of them used to give their 12 points to the same country each year, like Turkey and Azerbaijan, it has been noticed that factors such as the sets of other high votes received (7, 8 or 10 points) and the number of countries giving points to a specific entry, also highly affect the final positions.
An overview of the overall preference between countries that exhibits patterns of high score allocations is a question that appears frequently and recently a new study investigates the question of 'neglect' in the competition. The concept of 'neglect' here is represented by countries which produce patterns of biased low score allocations to certain countries. Together these two patterns provide a better view of the competition's intrinsic country pair biases. Result of such a study are presented in this paper. From the analysis it can be seen that countries which exhibit these biases do not receive a penalization from other participants and it presents itself as a means to accumulate more points by establishing these partnerships.
Running order of the participating songs
From 2013 onwards, the final and the semi-finals running order of the competing performances at the semi-finals and the final has been decided by the show's producers and then approved by the EBU Executive Supervisor and the Reference Group. An "allocation draw" occurs for the final and the semi-finals with each nation drawing to perform in the first or second half. Prior to 2013, the order was decided at random (though when the host nation performs is still decided at random, to ensure fairness). There is some statistical evidence that the contest's results were positively related to the running number in 2009–2012. The change in procedure was aimed to make the show more exciting and ensure that all contestants had a chance to stand out, preventing entries that are too similar from cancelling each other out. The decision elicited mixed reactions from both fans and participating broadcasters. Some fans have alleged that there is a risk of corruption and that the order can be manipulated to benefit certain countries, since the running order is considered to be of importance to the result. As of the 2019 contest, the only regularly contested positions in the running order that have never won the contest are numbers 2 and 16, with position number 21 winning for the first time in 2016. Position 17 has the most victories, with 7. Positions 25, 26 and 27 have not won either, but there have been very few finals with that many participants.
A number of spin-offs and imitators of the Eurovision Song Contest have been produced over the years, some national and others international.
Similar competitions that are still held, include:
- Sopot International Song Festival (1961–80, 1984–2003, 2005–09, 2012–14, 2017–), held in Sopot, Poland.
- Östersjöfestivalen also called Baltic Song Contest (1967–), held annually in Karlshamn, Sweden.
- Cân i Gymru (1969–72, 1974–), held annually in Wales, was intended to be BBC Cymru's pre-selection show when Wales expressed an interest in participating in the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest separately from the rest of the United Kingdom.
- Caribbean Song Festival (1984–), held annually between members of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
- Festivali i Këngës (1962–), held annually in Tirana, Albania, has been used to select Albania's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest since 2003.
- Golden Stag Festival (1968–71, 1992–97, 2001–05, 2008–09, 2018–), held annually in Brasov, Romania.
- Liet International (2002–), an annual competition between European ethnic minorities and minority language speakers. First held in Friesland.
- Junior Eurovision Song Contest (2003–), for European artists under the age of 15.
- Asia Song Festival (2004–), held annually in South Korea.
- ABU Song Festivals (2012–), two Asia-Pacific versions, the biennial ABU Radio Song Festival and the annual ABU TV Song Festival.
- AfriMusic Song Contest (2018–), an annual competition with African artists.
- AI Song Contest (2020–), featuring songs that are composed using artificial intelligence.
- Free European Song Contest (2020–), organised by the German television network ProSieben.
Similar competitions that are proposed or in development, include:
- Eurovision Asia Song Contest (TBD), Asian counterpart with members of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.
- American Song Contest (TBD), upcoming United States counterpart with American artists from 50 states.
Similar competitions that are no longer held, include:
- Castlebar Song Contest (1966–86, 1988), held annually in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland.
- Yamaha Music Festival, also called World Popular Song Festival (1970–87, 1989), held in Tokyo, Japan.
- OTI Festival (1972–98, 2000), competed and hosted by Portugal, Spain and the countries of the Americas. Countries could only sing in Spanish and Portuguese.
- Intervision Song Contest (1977–80, 2008), originally held by the Eastern Bloc countries of Europe and Finland. Now held by Post-Soviet states and members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
- MGP Nordic (2002, 2006–09), for artists under the age of 16 in Scandinavia and Finland.
- World Oriental Music Festival (2005), includes participants from Europe and Asia.
- Bundesvision Song Contest (2005–15), held annually between the 16 states of Germany.
- Turkvision Song Contest (2013–15), an annual competition that launched in December 2013, for countries and autonomous regions that have Turkic links.
- The European Broadcasting Area was expanded in November 2007 by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), also to include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
- The map shows Zagreb in the present day country of Croatia. When the Eurovision Song Contest was in Zagreb, it was in the former country of Yugoslavia which cannot be shown on the map.
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