Portugal has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 48 times since its debut in the 1964 contest. Since then, they have missed only five contests (1970, 2000, 2002, 2013 and 2016). Portugal has yet to win the contest and holds the record for most appearances in the contest without a win. In fact, the country has yet to reach the top five of any contest, with their best result being a sixth-place finish for Lúcia Moniz with the song "O meu coração não tem cor" in 1996. The contest is broadcast in Portugal by Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP).
Portugal's debut entry was António Calvário with "Oração", however it was not a successful debut for the country, with Calvário coming last in the contest. Since then Portugal has come last on two further occasions, in 1974, when Paulo de Carvalho sang "E depois do adeus", and in 1997 when Célia Lawson performed "Antes do adeus". Despite its last-place finish in the contest, "E depois do adeus" has since gained notability for being one of the two signals to begin the Carnation Revolution against the Estado Novo regime in the country. Prior to Moniz finishing sixth in 1996, Portugal's best result in the contest was two seventh-place finishes, for Carlos Mendes in 1972 and José Cid in 1980. 1996 remains the last time that Portugal reached the top ten.Despite having some really weak results the 90's were the most successful decade for the country reaching the top 10 four times.Because of this success in the 90's the country only suffered the relegation method in the year of 2000 and 2002. Portugal was allowed to take part in the 2002 contest but refused; its place was taken by Latvia, which ended up winning the contest.
Since semi-finals were introduced into the contest in 2004, Portugal has failed to reach the final eight times, including from 2004 to 2007. The country did reach the final from 2008 to 2010. In 2008, Vânia Fernandes finished 13th with the song "Senhora do mar (Negras águas)", Portugal's best finish since 1998. As of 2015, 2010 remains the last time Portugal participated in the Eurovision final, having failed to qualify from the semi-finals four more times, in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Portugal has been absent from five contests since their first participation. The country's first absence was in 1970 where Portugal, along with four other countries, boycotted the contest due to the result of the previous year, when four countries were announced the winner.
Portugal missed the 2000 contest due to their poor average results over the past five years. Despite being eligible to enter the 2002 contest, RTP declined to enter, and was replaced by eventual winner Latvia.
The fourth absence was in 2013, when Portugal didn't participate for financial reasons.
Festival da Canção (sometimes referred to as "Festival RTP da Canção") is the Portuguese national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, organized by RTP, and is normally held in February/March of the year of the contest. It is one of the longest-running Eurovision selection methods. Previously a number of regional juries selected the winner, however recently the winner has been selected through televoting. In 2009 and 2010, a 50-50 system between district juries and televote (like in the ESC) has been used.
Despite Portugal being absent from the contest on three occasions, the Festival da Canção has mostly gone on regardlessly. In 1970, when Portugal boycotted the contest, Festival da Canção 1970 went on ahead, the same occurring in 2000. The only times that Festival da Canção was not held were between 2002 and 2005, and in 2013.
NOTE: If a country had won the previous year, they did not have to compete in the semi-finals the following year. In addition from 2004-2007, the top ten countries who were not members of the big four did not have to compete in the semi-finals the following year. If, for example, Germany and France placed inside the top ten, the countries who placed 11th and 12th were advanced to the following year's grand final along with the rest of the top ten countries.
In the late 1990s the English actor and comedian Steve Coogan created the character "Tony Ferrino" for his television comedy series. "Tony Ferrino" is supposedly a Portuguese singer and winner of the Eurovision Song Contest; he is a stereotype based on singers and entertainers often seen on European television programmes in the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC produced a one-off programme The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon in 1997.