Eurovision Song Contest

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Running since 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest (in French: Concours Eurovision de la Chanson) 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.

Overview

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".

The basic structure of the contest sees each participating country perform its song in an order pre-determined in drawing lots. At the conclusion of all the songs, a 10 minute interval follows, to allow each participating country to tabluate its votes. Each country then reveals its votes, while a running total is prominently displayed on a large scoreboard. The winning artist then performs an encore.

The program can reach a potential television audience of more than one billion. Any member of the EBU (even those outside of Europe) may participate in the contest. Of these non-European members, only Israel and Morocco have participated in the contest. Lebanon had intended to participate for the first time in 2005, but withdrew 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

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

History

Based on the San Remo Music Festival, the first Eurovision Song Contest was the brainchild of the European Broadcasting Union. The first contest took place on May 24, 1956, when seven nations participated. More countries came on board in a gradual trickle over subsequent decades. The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s led to a sudden increase in numbers, with many former Eastern Bloc countries queuing up to compete for the first time. This process continued into the 2005 contest, in which both Bulgaria and Moldova made their debut appearance.

Debut of nations

Competitors

Among the famous performers to have graced the Eurovision stage are Nana Mouskouri, Sandie Shaw, Sir Cliff Richard, Vicky Leandros, Julio Iglesias, Mocedades, Olivia Newton John, ABBA, The Shadows, Baccara, Céline Dion, Katrina and the Waves,t.A.T.u., and Lulu.

Rules

The official rules of the contest are long, technical, and ever-changing. Many of the rules cover technical aspects of the television broadcast itself. However, a few of the more important rules affecting the conduct and outcome of the contest follow.

Number of songs

At the first contest in 1956, each country was allowed to submit two three-minute (or less) songs. From 1957, entries were limited to one song per country. The number of participating countries has grown throughout the Contest's history, and since 1993 the rules have been changed several times to both limit the number of finalists and to allow for participation by former Soviet and Yugoslav republics, Warsaw Pact nations and others.

Performers

Current rules state that countries are only allowed to have six performers on stage and that performers must be aged 16 or more, on the 31st of December in the year of the contest. It is worth noting that there is no restriction on the nationality of the performers, allowing the Canadian Céline Dion to represent Switzerland in 1988, amongst many others.

Languages

As of the 1999 contest, a song performed for the contest can be in any language. As a result, many of the songs are performed partially or completely in English. From the first contest until 1965, and again from 1973 until 1976 there was no restriction on language either. From 1966 until 1972 and again from 1978 until 1998 songs were required to be performed in a "national language". The national language rule was actually instituted shortly before the 1977 contest, but some countries had already selected non-national language entries, and they were allowed to enter without any changes.

The language issue

Because many European states were founded on ideas of linguistic unity, and because of the sometimes-unwelcome dominance of the English language in modern pop music, the language of a country's Eurovision entry can be a contentious issue. Some entries are performed in English to reach broader audiences, though this is sometimes looked upon as unpatriotic.

In some cases, the lyrics are written and recorded in two different versions (usually English and a national language) or a single multi-language version. Examples include:

  • Denmark, where the national selection procedure requires song writers to use the Danish, but after the song is selected it is rewritten in English for Eurovision.
  • Macedonia, who held a vote to decide whether their 2005 song should be in English or Macedonian.
  • France, whose entry in 2001 was performed partially in French and partially in English.

Voting

Currently, the contest winner is selected by means of a modified version of the Borda count. Each country ranks all the entries and assigns 12 points to their favorite entry, 10 points to their second favorite entry, and 8 through 1 points to their third through tenth favorites. Countries are not allowed to vote for themselves.

The current method for ranking entries is by a telephone vote (televoting) among the viewers. In the past, small demographically balanced juries were used to rank the entries. Juries are still used when televoting malfunctions or is impractical. For example, in 2003 Eircom's telephone polls system ceased to operate normally. The Irish broadcaster, RTÉ, did not receive the votes on time and instead used a panel of judges. (Later, the Russian entry t.a.T.u. held Ireland responsible for Russia losing the contest. Just 2 points separated Russia and winners Turkey. The Russian act insisted that had Ireland used a phone vote they would have been awarded more points and taken the title.)

The 1956 contest did not have regional voting. The BBC had used the idea of contacting regional juries by telephone in their contest to choose their 1956 song. Bizarrely, the UK's song was chosen after the date of the international final but the EBU adopted the idea of contacting the international juries by telephone and this was introduced in 1957 and used until 1993. 1994 saw the first satellite 'vision' link-up to juries. See below.

The presenters of the contest connect by satellite to each country's jury in turn, inviting the spokesperson for each national jury to read out that country's votes in French or English. The presenters then repeat the votes in the alternate language, following the formula: "Country name, number points. Nom du pays, nombre points" (but putting French first if the spokesperson is reading the points in French). For example: "Belgium, twelve points. La Belgique, douze points."

In the event of a tie for first after the last points have been announced there is a tie-break procedure. The first tie-break is to count the number of countries who assigned any points to each entry in the tie. The second tie break is to count the number of countries who assigned 12 points to each entry in the tie. Tie-breaks continue with 10 points, 8 points, and so on until the tie is resolved. Ties for other places are only officially resolved if they matter for qualification purposed (see below).

In the past, a number of different voting systems were used, with varying degrees of success. One of the most notorious examples of a failed voting system was the one used for the 1969 contest. Ten jurors in each country assigned gave a single vote to their favorite song. Four countries tied for first place (UK, Netherlands, France, and Spain), and there was no tie-break procedure. In typical EBU style, the same voting system was used the following year in Amsterdam and again in at Brighton 1974, the contest which brought ABBA to the attention of the world.

The 1971, 1972 and 1973 contests saw the jurors 'in vision' for the first time. Each country was represented by two jurors - one older than 25 and one younger, with at least ten years' difference in their ages. Each juror gave a minimum of 1 point and a maximum of 5 points for each song. The attention seeking antics of the juror from Switzerland in 1973 are largely blamed for the prompt dismissal of this voting system and the brief return to the 'ten jurors with one vote' system in 1974, before the present voting system was introduced at the Stockholm contest of 1975. Jury spokespeople were next seen on screen in 1994 by satellite link up to the venue.

Nul points

Since each of the participating countries casts a series of votes, it is rare that a song fails to receive any votes what so ever — under the modern rules this means that the song failed to make the top ten most popular songs in any country. When it does happen, it is known as nul points, from the practice of reading results in French as well as English during the broadcast (the French phrase used by Eurovision announcers is "nil points").

Entries which received no points, or nul points, since the introduction of the current scoring system in 1975 are as follows:

Political and regional voting patterns

Some viewers claim that politics and international relations dictate a lot of the voting. There is little empirical data to back up these claims, however.

Anecdotal evidence does suggest that some regional voting blocks do exist though. Cyprus and Greece have exchanged maximum points (i.e. Greece gives 12 points to Cyprus and Cyprus gives 12 points to Greece in the same contest) seven times (1987, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004) since they first competed together in 1981.

Additionally, until Turkey won the contest in 2003, Cyprus had never given points to Turkey. (Cyprus awarded 8 points to Turkey that year). The next year, Turkey awarded a single point to Cyprus for the first time.

The Nordic and Baltic are perceived to vote as a block for each other , though careful scrutiny of the votes doesn't always bear this out. For example, Estonia won the 2001 contest while earning 12 points each from Latvia and Lithuania and 10 points each from Iceland and Norway. Denmark finished second with 12 points each from Iceland, Norway, and Estonia. However, Norway and Iceland finished tied for last with just three points each.

Similar patterns have been seen in (among others) the states of the former Soviet Union, former Yugoslav republics, and the western Mediterranean.

The counter-argument to these perceived patterns is that it is natural for people of similar cultures within Europe, sharing common borders where the TV and radio stations of a number of countries can be received, and speaking similar languages, to enjoy similar styles of music.

Hosts

Hosting the Eurovision Song Contest is an honour accorded to the winning country from the previous year. Despite rumors that host countries have experienced financial difficulties through having to host (a situation famously parodied in the Father Ted episode "A Song for Europe"), 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, and for the summer of 2005 to coincide with its hosting of the ESC, Ukraine even abolished its normal visa requirements for tourists.

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 and 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.

Occasionally, the host nation wins for a second year in a row. This first happened in 1969 when Spain (in a four way tie for 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).

Although other countries had opportunities to host the event twice in a row Template:Ref num, 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; the BBC having hosted each time after winning the contest (4 times: the Netherlands were given the honour after the 1969 tie) and taken the reins when other broadcasters could not fulful their obligation.

  1. ^  Israel declined to host the 1980 contest because the IBA preferred to spend their budget on upgrading their transmission to colour.

Music

The maximum duration of each song is three minutes, and the musicians and songs selected for the contest tend towards very commercial pop, although there are exceptions. Many 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 and the like has evolved in some countries.

Winners

See Eurovision Song Contest Winners

Selection procedures

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

For the 2002 edition, 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 2002 to 2005, which carried the ultimate prize of representing Ireland at Eurovision. Ironically, however, the original Spanish show was quietly dropped for the 2005 contest, with the country reverting to a conventional national pre-selection competition. The Irish show was also dropped after the entrants failed to break the top ten two years in a row.

In recent years more and more countries have used this "reality show" method of selecting their singing entrants, 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 private selection of the singer, followed by a selection of songs from which the national public votes (this method was used for Turkey, Ukraine and Greece in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005, when these countries won the contest.)

Junior Eurovision Song Contests

Denmark originally held a song contest for children in 2000 then it organised a Nordic Children's Eurovision. 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.

Intervision Song Contest

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

The 50th Anniversary Contest

On October 22, 2005, the EBU held a celebration contest to commemorate 50 years of the Eurovision. This was originally to be broadcast from London, but the BBC and France's TV3 announced they would not be broadcasting it, so Copenhagen was chosen as a venue.

Eurovision fans voted online for their ten favourite Eurovision songs of all time, and the EBU added four more of their own selection. These songs were mostly Eurovision winners, with some second place finishers such as Cliff Richard "Congratulations" and Spain's "eres tu". Other songs chosen included Greece's 2005 winner "My Number One", Celine Dion's 1988 Swiss winner "Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi", two Irish Johnny Logan entries, 1982s "Terminal 3" and 1988 "Hold Me Now", Turkey's 2003 "Everyway that I Can", Israel's 1998 song "Diva", and the UK's "Save Your Kisses for Me". These songs along with others were performed on the night (in edited form) by special dancers on stage, while in the background a tape was shown of the original performance.

The public was asked to vote for which song they deemed to be the best.The eventual winner was Abba's "Waterloo", the 1974 winner.

The show was hosted by Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina and the Waves) and Renars Kaupers, and featured many others, including Riverdance, Ronan Keating, and Linda Martin (the 1992 winner).

See also

External links

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