Participants in the Eurovision Song Contest, coloured by decade of debut
Regular participants in 1992. Yugoslavia is coloured in red: 1991 was the last year in which that nation participated under one name.
Regular participants in 1994. Changes from 1992 include the addition of Central and Eastern European countries, and the separation of ex-Yugoslavian states.
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 2018, a total of 43 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 three 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, 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 on the festival. Since its creation, countries of the Big Five have ended in last place in 8 of the last 15 contests (2003, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019). The only country in the Big 5 (since 2011) that has never finished last in the finals is Italy, which has also have been successful achieving in all but two editions at least a top 10, with three podiums. 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 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. This led the EBU to create 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.
In-depth Everything you always wanted to know about the inner workings of the Eurovision Song Contest.
National selections Each Participating Broadcaster has the freedom to decide how they choose their entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Through the years, they have come up with some pretty impressive formats to pick their act.
How do the national selections for the Eurovision Song Contest work?
Each country is de facto represented by its respective public broadcaster. It is at easch broadcaster’s sole discretion to determine who will represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest.
There are three common ways to select a participant for the Eurovision Song Contest:
- Through a televised national selection: Through one or more television shows, the public can take part in the selection of the country’s representative. The most successfull televised national selection format is Melodifestivalen in Sweden, which features four live shows in different cities across the country, a second-chance show and a spectacular final;
- Through a full internal selection: Artist and song are being selected internally by a committee appointed by the broadcaster;
- Through a mixed format: Often, an artist is appointed by the broadcaster, while the public can help choose their song during a live television show;
The EBU strongly encourages participating broadcasters to engage the public with the selection of a participant for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Host City Insignia Exchange During the Host City Insignia Exchange, which traditionally takes place in January, the mayor of the previous Host City hands over the Eurovision Song Contest insignia to the mayor of the upcoming Host City.
Every year in May, one city finds itself in the global spotlight for several weeks; the Host City of the Eurovision Song Contest. To celebrate the contest coming to town, every year starts with the Host City Insignia Exchange around the end of January.
The Host City Insignia Exchange usually takes place in conjunction with the Semi-Final Allocation Draw, which determines which country takes part in which of the two Semi-Finals.
Each Host City adds an iconic insignia to the key chain, before handing over the entire collection of insignia to the next Host City.
After the hand-over, the insignia are traditionally being put on display in a public place, such as the City Hall or another venue of local significance, until they embarque on their next journey.
Semi-Final Allocation Draw During the Semi-Final Allocation Draw it is determined which country participates in which Semi-Final, and whether they take part in its first or second half.
The Semi-Final Allocation Draw, which takes place every year in late January, determines which country takes part in which of the two Semi-Finals of the Eurovision Song Contest.
The participating countries, except for the Host Country and the so-called ‘Big Five’ countries that automatically qualify for the Grand Final, will be divided across the two Semi-Finals. From each Semi-Final, only ten countries will quality for the Grand Final, bringing the total number of Grand Final participants to 26.
During the Semi-Final Allocation Draw, the countries that will take part in the Semi-Finals are divided into pots, based on historic voting patterns. In this way, countries that traditionally award each other points are less likely to end up in the same Semi-Final, adding excitement to the shows. The pots are approved by the contest’s Executive Supervisor on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the Chairman of the Reference Group, the contest’s governing body on behalf of all Participating Broadcasters.
The Semi-Final Allocation Draw is being broadcast live via Eurovision.tv.
The event weeks Some two weeks before the Grand Final, the first delegations, journalists and fans travel to the Host City, to attend rehearsals, press conferences and parties in the Host City.
While most TV viewers are focused on the three live shows, the broadcasts are in fact the climax of two exciting weeks in the Host City. What happens during the so-called event weeks of the Eurovision Song Contest?
The event weeks in the Host City usually last about 15 days. A lot happens during the event weeks:
- All participants rehearse individually on stage twice. After each individual rehearsal, the participants meet with press and fans at the Press Centre;
- For most of the event weeks, all accredited delegates, press and fans can come together at the so-called EuroClub, the Eurovision Song Contest’s official party venue. Often, participants also throw their own parties, sometimes at the EuroClub, sometimes at other venues. Often, embassies give official receptions to welcome their representative in town;
- At the Eurovision Village, participants perform during the weeks on an outdoor stage. The Eurovision Village hosts sponsor activities, as well as public viewings during the live shows;
- Each show is preceded by three so-called Dress Rehearsals. The first Dress Rehearsal is open to the press, while tickets are being sold for the second and third one. The second Dress Rehearsal also features as recorded back-up, and is the show based on which the juries make up their mind;
- Traditionally, a Welcome Reception and Red Carpet Ceremony are being held on the Sunday preceding the live shows;
- On Tuesday, the first Semi-Final takes place, followed by a press conference featuring the ten qualifiers;
- On Thursday, the second Semi-Final takes place, followed by a press conference featuring the ten qualifiers;
- On Saturday, the Grand Final takes place, followed by a press conference featuring the winner and a grand after-party.
Usually, thousands or even tens of thousands of people travel to the Host City to celebrate the event weeks.
EuroClub The EuroClub is the official party venue for accredited Eurovision Song Contest delegates, press and fans. It is the place to be to have fun and unwind after a long working day.
Note that EuroClub access is restricted to accreditated individuals only, in the categories D, P and F and is not open to the public. It is obligatory to carry your accreditation badge when visiting the EuroClub.
Eurovision Village The Eurovision Village is the central Eurovision Song Contest hub in the contest’s Host City, open to the public.
The Eurovision Village is the official fan zone of the Eurovision Song Contest, access is free of charge and offers fans the opportunity to see their favourite acts perform live ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest.
During the live shows, fans are invited to watch the shows on big screens at the Eurovision Village.
Marcel Bezençon Awards Apart from the glass trophy for the winner, press, commentators and composers also award prizes; the Marcel Bezençon Awards.
Apart from the viewers at home and music industry professionals who decide upon the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, press, commentators and composers also award additional prizes; the Marcel Bezençon Awards.
The award, named after the founder of the Eurovision Song Contest, was first handed out in 2002, at the initiatve of Christer Björkman (Sweden’s representative in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest) and Richard Herrey (member of the Herreys, 1984 Eurovision Song Contest winner from Sweden).
The awards are divided into three categories: the Press Award (given to the best entry voted for by the accredited media), the Artistic Award (presented to the best artist voted for by the commentators) and the Composer Award (a jury consisting of the participating composers who vote for the most original composition).
The awards are traditionally handed out backstage, shortly before the Grand Final.
Press Award: Mercy, Madame Monsieur, France
Artistic Award: Fuego, Eleni Foureira, Cyprus
Composers Award: Bones, Borislav Milanov, Joacim Persson, Brandon Treyshun Campbell, Dag Lundberg, Bulgaria
Press Award: ”Occidentali’s Karma”, Francesco Gabbani, Italy
Artistic Award: ”Amar Pelos Dois”, Salvador Sobral, Portugal
Composers Award: ”Amar Pelos Dois”, Luisa Sobral, Portugal
Press Award: ”You Are The Only One”, Sergey Lazarev, Russia
Artistic Award: Jamala, ”1944”, Ukraine
Composers Award: ”Sound Of Silence”,
DNA (David Musumeci & Anthony Egizii), Australia
Press Award: ”Grande Amore”, Il Volo, Italy
Artistic Award: Måns Zelmerlöw, ”Heroes”, Sweden
Composers Award: ”A Monster Like Me”, Kjetil Mørland, Norway
Press Award: ”Rise Like A Phoenix”, Conchita Wurst, Austria
Artistic Award: The Common Linnets, ”Calm After The Storm”,
Composers Award: ”Calm After The Storm”, Ilse DeLange, JB Meijers,
Rob Crosby, Matthew Crosby, Jake Etheridge, the Netherlands
Artistic Award: Farid Mammadov, “Hold me”, Azerbaijan
Press Award: Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani, “Waterfall”, Georgia
Composers Award: “You”, Robin Stjernberg, Linnea Deb, Joy Deb,
Joakim Harestad Haukaas, Sweden
Artistic Award: Loreen, “Euphoria”, Sweden
Press Award: Sabine Babayeva, “When the Music Dies”, Azerbaijan
Composers Award: “Euphoria”, Thomas G:son, Peter Boström, Sweden
Artistic Award: Jedward, “Lipstick”, Ireland
Press Award: Paradise Oskar, “Da Da Dam”, Finland
Composers Award: “Sognu”, Daniel Moyne, Quentin Bachelet,
Jean Pierre Marcallesi, Julie Miller, France
Artistic Award: Harel Skaat, “Milim”, Israel
Press Award: Harel Skaat “Milim”, Israel
Composers Award: “Milim”, Itomer Adaddi and Noam Horev, Israel
Artistic Award: Patricia Kaas, “Et s’il fallait le faire”, France
Press Award: Alexander Ryback “Fairytale”, Norway
Composers Award: “Bistra Voda”, Aleksandar Čović, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Artistic Award: Ani Lorak “Shady lady”, Ukraine
Press Award: Vânia Fernandes “Senhora do mar”, Portugal
Composers Award: “Pe-o margine de lume”, Nico & Vlad, Romania
Fan Award: Sirusho Harutyunyan, “Qele, qele”, Armenia
Artistic Award: Marija Šerifović, “Molitva”, Serbia
Press Award: Verka Serduchka “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”, Ukraine
Composers Award: “Unsubstantial Blues”, Magdi Rúsza, Hungary
Artistic Award: Carola “Invincible”, Sweden
Press Award: Lordi “Hard Rock Hallelujah”, Finland
Composer Award: “Lejla”, Zeljko Joksimovic (Hari Mata Hari), Bosnia & Herzegovina
Artistic Award: Helena Paparizou “My Number One”, Greece
Press Award: Chiara “Angel”, Malta
Composer Award: “Zauvijek Moja”, Slaven Knezovic & Milan Peric (No Name), Serbia & Montenegro
Artistic Award: Ruslana “Wild Dancers”, Ukraine
Press Award: Zeljko Joksimovic “Lane Moje”, Serbia Montenegro
Composer Award: “Stronger Every Minute”, Mike Connaris (Lisa Andreas), Cyprus
Artistic Award: Esther Hart “One More Night”, Netherlands
Press Award: Sertab Erener “Everyway That I Can”, Turkey
Fan Award: Beth “Dime”, Spain
Artistic Award: Afro-Dite “Never Let It Go”, Sweden
Press Award: Sandrine Francois “Il faut de temps” , France
Fan Award: med Laura (Finland) “Addicted To You”, Finland
Keeping the contest fair Every year, the organisers take extensive measures to keep the Eurovision Song Contest fair. How do make sure we present a valid result at the end of the Grand Final?
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is strongly committed to secure the fairness of the Eurovision Song Contest. In order to assure Participating Broadcasters, contestants and the public a fair and valid result the EBU implemented a wide range of measures.
Governance Participation in the contest is governed by the Eurovision Song Contest Rules. These Rules are established and enforced by the contest’s governing body, the Reference Group, on behalf of all Participating Broadcasters. Embedded within the Rules is a wealth of legacy, some of which dating back several decades. The EBU and the Reference Group are committed to continuously improving the Rules.
Significant changes that touch upon the basics of the contest will have to be approved by the EBU’s Television Committee, a higher governing body on behalf of the EBU’s Member Broadcasters.
The Executive Supervisor on behalf of the EBU, who is a permanent member of the Reference Group, ensures that the Rules are being followed on a day-to-day basis and reports any breach of the Rules to the Reference Group.
In particular, the Executive Supervisor oversees the voting procedure that determines the outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest.
A breach of the Rules may result in a formal warning, a financial penalty or a sanction. The highest possible sanction is an exclusion from participation in the contest for a maximum of three consecutive years.
Voting validation and observation
The outcome of the Eurovision Song Contest is determined by a jury of music industry professionals and viewers, each making a 50 percent contribution to the result.
Each jury, as well as each individual jury member, must meet a strict set of criteria regarding professional background, as well as diversity in gender and age. Additionally, judges pledge in writing they will evaluate the entries based on a set of criteria and state that they are not connected to any of the contestants in any way that could affect their ability to vote independently. Judges can only take seat in the jury once every three years.
The juries vote on the basis of the second Dress Rehearsal of each show, which takes place the night before each live show. Each judge should vote independently and no discussion about their vote is permitted. An independent notary oversees the jury gathering, to assure all regulatory procedures are being followed.
Each jury submits their result to the EBU and its official voting partner Digame via a highly secured system, as well as by fax.
Viewers can submit their vote by phone call, SMS or via the official app. They can vote up to 20 times. Voting tariffs are set by each Participating Broadcaster and will be presented on screen during the shows. Exceptions may apply due to differences in national legislation.
All televotes are being processed by the Pan-European Response Platform (PERP), which was developed by the EBU’s official voting partner Digame to assure all votes are counted in accordance with the Rules. The entire televoting process is monitored live by some 70 trained professionals from the Voting Control Centre in Cologne, Germany. The setup assures that any attempts to unfairly influence the voting, e.g. via bulk voting are detected and mitigated. The exact methods to prevent and/or detect malicious voting is classified and only known to the EBU Executive Supervisor, the Chairman of the Reference Group, PwC and Digame.
The entire procedure – both jury voting as well as televoting – is overlooked by independent observers of PwC and by the EBU’s Executive Supervisor, to assure that all results are being interpreted in accordance with the Rules.