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Eurovision Song Contest

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Eurovision Song Contest logo. Eurovision Song Contest logo.

Running since 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest is an annual televised song contest with participants from numerous countries whose national television broadcasters are members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The Contest is broadcast on television and radio throughout Europe, in selected countries around the world, and on the Internet.



The Contest's name comes from the EBU's Eurovision TV distribution network. Because it is the highest-profile event distributed by the network, the Song Contest itself is often simply called "Eurovision". ESC is an abbreviation used when referring to the Contest on websites and in forums.

The structure of the Contest is as follows:

  • Each country, through a variety of means, chooses an artist and song to represent them.
  • Each song from every country is then performed once on the night, vocally live.
  • After all songs have been performed, viewers have ten minutes to vote for their favourite song. Viewers can not vote for their own country e.g. voters in Ireland can not vote for the Irish entry.
  • All the votes are added up per country (e.g. all of the votes from Irish televoters, from French voters etc.)
  • Each country, via satellite link, reveals its votes. The top ten songs voted for in each country receive points, from 1-8, then 10 and 12 points. Points are announced per country in reverse order.
  • In the end, the winner is the country with the most points. In a tie, it is the country with (any number of) points awarded from most countries that wins.
  • The winning country receives the honour of hosting the next year's Contest.

The programme can reach a potential television audience of more than one billion. Any member of the EBU (even those outside Europe) may participate in the Contest. Of these non-European members, only Israel and Morocco have participated in the Contest. Lebanon had planned to enter the 2005 Contest, but they were forced to withdraw because they admitted that they could not be sure the broadcast wouldn't be cut whilst Israel were performing.

The theme music played before and after the broadcasts of the Eurovision Song Contest (and other Eurovision broadcasts) is the prelude to Marc-Antoine Charpentier's setting of Te Deum.


In the event of a tie it used to be the song with the most twelve points which won (as was the case in 1991) however it is now the song which received any points from the most countries which wins the tiebreak


Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest is an honour accorded to the winning country from the previous year. Many people believe that host countries have experienced financial difficulties through having to host. Particularly Ireland which won 3 years in a row. This situation was famously parodied in the Father Ted episode "A Song for Europe" (although the Contest was simply referred to as the 'Eurosong Competition').

However, most of the expense of the Contest is covered by event sponsors and contributions from the other participating nations. The 2004 ESC was allocated a budget of some €15 million and was the most expensive edition ever. The Contest is considered a unique showcase for launching the host country as a tourist destination. For example in the summer of 2005, Ukraine abolished its normal visa requirements for tourists to coincide with its hosting of the ESC.

Interval Acts

The entertainment provided by the host nation between the competitors' performances and the scoring is sometimes used as the launch of a successful career. The Irish dancing show Riverdance was first seen internationally at the 1994 Contest. The Hothouse Flowers had a successful career after their interval appearance in 1988. The Danish band Aqua also performed the interval act when Copenhagen hosted the competition in the year 2001 as a farewell to the music industry just before their split.

Winning Streaks

Occasionally, the host nation wins for a second year in a row. This first happened in 1969 when Spain (in its four-way tie with the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom) won the Contest in Madrid. The hosts also won the Contests in 1973 (Luxembourg), 1979 (Israel), 1993 (Ireland), and 1994 (Ireland again).

Ireland is the only nation to have won three times in a row; in 1992, 1993 and 1994. It also holds the title of most wins - with seven, in 1970, 1980, 1987, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996.

Whilst having won the Contest five times, two fewer than Ireland, the United Kingdom have the highest cumulative points total by some distance. This is largely courtesy of the country placing second an incredible fifteen times.

Although other countries had opportunities to host the event twice in a row [1], the first country to do so was Ireland, which actually hosted the Contest three times in a row, as they won the Contest in 1992, 1993 and 1994 and hosted the event in 1993, 1994, and 1995.

The United Kingdom holds the record for hosting the Contest the most times - eight in total - 1960, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1982 and 1998 — having hosted four times after winning the Contest (the Netherlands were given the honour after the 1969 tie) and taken the reins four other times when other broadcasters declined. Ireland has hosted the competition seven times, following its seven wins.

Terry Wogan

In the United Kingdom the Contest is taken less seriously than in many other countries. Many blame this on broadcaster Terry Wogan who adds light humour to his voice over commentary on UK Television. Others, however, argue that he is what has kept it so interesting for UK viewers for so many years. Wogan tends to make light of the alleged regional voting blocks e.g "Greece gives Cyprus douze points, quelle surprise!"

Musical Styles

The maximum duration of each song is three minutes, and although musicians of any genre can play, the musicians and songs selected for the Contest tend towards very commercial pop. Some viewers of the Contest view the event as a combination of camp entertainment and a musical train wreck (a fact played upon in the UK broadcast with the sardonic BBC commentary of Terry Wogan) and a subculture of Eurovision Song Contest drinking games has evolved in some countries.

It's worth noting that the voting system used for the Contest was originally designed to select a single compromise winner from a large field of candidates. A number of countries use this same system to select their entries, some of them going through several rounds of voting before selecting a winner. After repeated iterations of the system, variations from middle-of-the-road pop music tend to be eliminated.


Often the winner of the Eurovision gets largely forgotten after their win: however there have been notable exceptions like ABBA and Céline Dion. Usually the winner becomes a massive star in their home country and eventually in neighbouring countries. The 2004 winner Ruslana became a superstar in her home country Ukraine, yet has failed to make a major splash in most of Europe, except for Belgium and Greece. The 2005 winner Elena Paparizou achieved even more fame in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Sweden yet failed to reach success outside of these four countries. However, Elena is due to release remixes in the US in 2006 as well as an English album in Europe. Sertab Erener, the only Turkish winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, achieved a lot more fame in Turkey, Greece and Germany, and became more well known. However, she wasn't as successful outside those three countries.

The credibility of the show has been called in to question in some countries - (UK for example sees it as a comedy show but nonetheless keeps good viewing figures, Italy has declined to enter since 1997); conversely "new Europe" nations see it as a chance to showcase their nation and culture. This may or may not have a bearing on "Political and Regional Voting Patterns" as described above.

Selection procedures

Participating nations use a number of different methods to select their entries. Many of them mimic the final Contest with big stage productions, telephone or jury voting, and a selection of songs to chose from. Others follow different paths.

For the 2002 Contest, the Spanish TVE created a reality show Operación Triunfo that showed the selection and training of unknown singers. At the end, one of them would be elected by the public to represent the country in the Contest. The format was initially an enormous success in Spain, ran for two more years there and was swiftly exported to other countries. One example was the Irish You're A Star, a Pop Idol clone run by RTÉ from 2003 to 2005, which carried the ultimate prize of representing Ireland at Eurovision. The original Spanish show was quietly dropped for the 2005 Contest after the three previous entries had disappeared into mid-table obscurity in the international contests. The Spanish reverted to a conventional national pre-selection competition. The Irish show was not dropped; however the prize of representing Ireland in the Eurovision was.

In recent years, more and more countries have used this "reality show" method of selecting their singing entrants and choosing the song at a later stage, with mixed results. Twelve of the participating countries in the 2004 Song Contest were winners on a reality show.

More successful has been the system where the national broadcaster privately selects one singer and a selection of songs from which the national public votes. This method was used for Turkey, Ukraine, and Greece in the years when these countries won the Contest.

In the United Kingdom the entry is chosen by the public during the programme "Making Your Mind Up", which took its name from UK group Bucks Fizz's winning entry in 1981.

Countries with many very successful international artists tend not to enter them as it unlikely they would choose to compete, for example it is considered unlikely Ireland would enter U2 or the United Kingdom would enter The Rolling Stones. Several countries have used their most famous export in previous years, however, with the most recent being TATU's participation for Russia in 2003, or Las Ketchup (of 'The Ketchup Song' fame) competing for Spain in 2006.

For more information on each country's selection procedures, visit the country-specific links at the bottom of the page.

Spinoffs and imitators

There are a number of other contests and events that are either spun off from the Eurovision Song Contest or resemble it closely.

The Junior Eurovision Song Contest

Denmark originally held a song contest for children in 2000: then it organised a Nordic Children's Eurovision, in which children from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden competed in 2002. The EBU saw clips of the show and liked it so decided to create an official Children's Eurovision.

Thus, starting in 2003, an annual children's version of the Contest was established, called the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. As originators of the concept, Denmark were given the honour of hosting the first running of the event, which was won by Croatia.

In the Junior Eurovision Song Contests the performers always compose their own songs.

Even though the Junior Eurovision Song Contest was approved by the EBU, it hasn't been very successful, and has generally had unsatisfactory audience ratings, particularly in the United Kingdom, where from 2004 it was only shown on digital channel ITV2.

An American Eurovision Contest?

In 2006 the format of the Eurovision Song Contest was sold to an American Broadcaster in order to compete with American Idol in the ratings. The member countries of the EBU will be replaced by the different States and territories of the United States.

Intervision Song Contest

Between 1977 and 1980 the countries of the Eastern bloc had a song contest of their own, known as the Intervision Song Contest. Organised by the Intervision Network and held in Sopot, Poland, it replaced an earlier event — the Sopot International Song Festival.


  • Joan Manuel Serrat was originally slated to represent Spain in 1968 with the song "La La La", but wanted to sing it in Catalan. The ruler of Spain at the time, Francisco Franco, ordered that the song be performed in Spanish. Serrat refused and was replaced by Massiel, who went on to win the Contest.
  • The 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal began when their entry E depois do adeus was broadcast on Portuguese radio. The song was the signal to the rebels to start the revolution.
  • Lebanon had intended to participate for the first time in 2005, but was forced to withdraw when it emerged that Lebanese law made it impossible to show the Israeli entry. (The Contest rules require participating broadcasters to show all the songs). BBC coverage
  • It has been argued that Israel and sometimes Turkey are not in Europe and hence should not be in the Contest. However being a member of the EBU is the requirement rather than geographical concerns. As long as the EBU can transmit to all participating countries (no matter how far away) they are permitted to take part. This means that Morocco was able to participate in 1980.
  • Steve Coogan portrayed a spoof singer Tony Ferrino who "won" the Contest for Portugal in 1980 with a classic hit "Papa Bendi". The real winner that year was Johnny Logan.

The Contest in Popular Culture

  • The Eurovision Song Contest was the central focus of an episode of Father Ted. The joke was that the Irish had lost so much money by winning so many times they decide to choose the worst possible entry as their song entry. Father Ted and Dougal win with an entry called "My Lovely Horse".
  • In an episode of The Young Ones, Alexei Sayle dressed as Benito Mussolini and performed a mock Contest entry called "Make Silly Noises".
  • The short-lived BBC comedy Heartburn Hotel featured an episode in which the delegation from the impoverished Eastern European state of Zagrovia, recovering from a recent civil war, stayed in the grotty Birmingham hotel run by Tim Healy's character whilst taking part in that year's Eurovision Song Contest. Although the country in question is, of course, fictitious, the Contest had indeed been held in Birmingham that year (1998), and the programme notably included some specially filmed footage of the Zagrovian "entry" - entitled "Lik, Lik, Lik" ("Love, Love, Love"), sung by Saskia - being performed on the actual ESC stage at the National Indoor Arena, complete with commentary by Terry Wogan. [1]
  • At the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards, the British host Sacha Baron Cohen made a parody of Eastern European countries hosting the Contest. As the fictitious Kazakh TV personality Borat, Cohen opened the show by welcoming the viewers to The Eurovision Song Contest 2005. The award show also included other, more subtle, references to the ESC, like overly long folk-dance sequences (common in the interval act of the ESC), and a pointless appearance by the (still fake) Kazakh president.
  • British comedy Maid Marian and her Merry Men (1989) included a Eurovision parody in their song contest 'a Song for Worksop.' Upon forming the idea for the song contest, Marian described in vivid detail the exact manner in which she would host the show, mirroring Eurovision hosts of the past, and the winning song was the Guy of Gisborne's idiotic composition 'Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling, Dong-a-Long-a-Long.'
  • Famous British comedy troupe, Monty Python, parodied the Eurovision Song Contest in their popular 70s variety comedy show, Monty Python's Flying Circus.
  • In the 1977 film Jubilee a character is referred to as "England's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest" about 32 minutes in. This is ironic as constituent nations of the UK, unlike in football and other sports, do not have their own entries. This is arguably because it is technically EBU members, rather than countries themselves, competing. Therefore, as the BBC covers all of the United Kingdom, we have a United Kingdom entry.
  • In the 2000 film An Everlasting Piece after about 7 minutes a wig technician asks during customer/client smalltalk whether the client knows where the Eurovison Song Contest is being held that year.
  • The Swedish 2000 film 'Livet är en schlager' (Life is a Schlager) [2] is about a housewife that gets her life turned upside-down when she participates in 'Melodifestivalen', the Swedish qualifier for the Eurovision Song Contest.

External links

Official Websites

Chat Sites

The Eurovision Wiki

Eurovision Fan Profiles

News and Facts

(National) fan sites

Miscellaneous Links

Eurovision Shops


  1. ^ Luxembourg declined to host the 1974 Contest after the expenditure of hosting the previous year. Israel declined to host the 1980 Contest because the IBA preferred to spend their budget on upgrading their transmission to colour.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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