Eurovision: what to know
Love it or loathe it, it’s that time of year again – the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 is set to take place this Saturday in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine won last year in Stockholm, Sweden with the controversial song “1944” about the deportation of Crimean Tartars by the Soviet Union, written and performed by actress and songwriter Jamala.
Each year the following year’s host city for Eurovision is determined by the winning performers’ home country.
Forty-two countries will participate in the 2017 competition, now in its 62nd year. Portugal and Romania are back after a year’s absence, while Bosnia and Herzegovina withdrew on financial grounds. Russia announced their withdrawal mid-April after their representative, Yulia Samoylova, was banned from entering Ukraine by virtue of travelling directly from Russia to Crimea.
The non-European countries of Israel and Australia will also compete. Israel has regularly taken part since 1973 and has won three times.
Australia first competed in 2015 when it was invited to participate in a gesture of goodwill for the show’s 60th anniversary and its ‘Building Bridges’ theme. The country, which has a strong Eurovision following, has since remained in the competition, both confusing and upsetting many fans. The simple explanation as to why Australia is in Eurovision is that SBS, its host TV broadcaster, is part of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees the organisation of the contest; in essence, this qualifies them for entry.
This year’s Eurovision theme is Celebrate Diversity.
A draw to determine the country groups, or ‘pots’, took place on 31 January. The draw is not random, but rather based on historical voting patterns as calculated by the contest’s official televoting partner. This helps reduce the chance of voting for a neighbouring country. Voting for one’s home country is disallowed.
Semi-final judging is conducted by both Eurovision judges and televoters. The national juries are made up of five music industry professionals and are supervised by a notary in each country. The semi-finals decide which countries will make it to the Grand Final.
According to Eurovision: “For each Semi-Final, only juries and televoters from the countries that take part in the respective Semi-Final will vote. The so-called ‘Big Five’ – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom – and host country Ukraine have been allocated to vote in one of the two Semi-Finals by draw.”
The Big Five countries have a ‘free pass’ to the Grand Final as their broadcasters contribute the most financially towards the competition.
Viewers can vote by telephone, SMS and via an official app. Juries and televoters from all participating countries vote in the Grand Final. The current method for ranking entries, introduced last year, is to sum together the points calculated from the telephone vote and the jury separately. Prior to this it was closer to a 50/50 vote. On the eve of the final, jury voting takes place during the dress rehearsal, which is broadcast to judges via satellite.
When voting closes, a spokesperson from each country reads out the scores from their prospective country, often in front of a historic setting or landmark.
What do the winners get?
No cash prize is awarded to the winning performer(s) and a win guarantees neither short- or long-term success. The most famous winners were ABBA (1974 for Sweden), Bucks Fizz (1981 for the UK) and Canada’s Céline Dion (1988 for Switzerland).
Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins, a total of seven.
Since 2008 the winner has been awarded a glass microphone. The trophy is embedded with the flag of the host country.
Semi-final 1 (9 May) airs in the UK on BBC4 at 8pm. It will air across Central Europe at 9pm. Viewers in the UK, Italy and Spain will be able to vote for their favourites.
Semi-final 2 (11 May) airs in the UK on BBC4 at 8pm. It will air across Central Europe at 9pm. Viewers in France and Germany will be able to vote in this semi-final.
The Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest (13 May) airs in the UK on BBC1 at 8pm and across Europe on various broadcasters from 9pm (Central European Time).
Eurovision is one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world; audiences in recent years have ranged from 100 to 600 million. The original idea was based on the Sanremo Music Festival and was the brainchild of Sergio Pugliese of Italian television RAI. The first Eurovision Song Contest took place in May 1956 with a total of seven nations.