Guide: What is the Eurovision Song Contest?

  • 6 May 2016
Eurovision Trophy Image copyright Thomas Hanses/EBU

More than 180 million people tune in every year for a live extravaganza of multicultural entertainment - the Eurovision Song Contest.

Countries from all over Europe - and a few from outside Europe - send a song and performer(s) to entertain an international audience.

The contest is usually hosted by the country that won the year before.

The 2016 final is in Stockholm, Sweden, on 14 May after Swedish singer Mans Zelmerlow won in 2015.

When did it start?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sweden's Mans Zelmerlow won in 2015

Eurovision started in 1956 when just seven countries took part. Now there can be as many as 43 countries!

The contest was created by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an organisation of TV companies in and around Europe.

The idea originally came from an Italian song contest and it was also a chance to test out early live TV technology.

How does it work?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Finland's heavy metal group Lordi were the surprise winner in 2006

Most entries sing in one of two semi-finals to gain a place in the grand final.

Some countries go straight to the final. The previous year's winner always gets a place, along with the "Big Five" of UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. They give the most money to the EBU and are guaranteed a final spot.

How's the winner decided?

Image caption Nul points: UK duo Jemini didn't score a single point in 2003

The winner is decided by all the countries involved - each nation gets to award points to the other countries that they want to win.

The scoring is based on a mix of viewer votes and the opinions of a music expert jury.

In 2016, there is a change to the scoring. There will be two sets of points, one based on expert juries and another based on viewer votes.

Sometimes countries end up scoring nothing and get the dreaded "nul points".

Joe and Jake tell Newsround how it feels to be representing the UK at Eurovision 2016

Political voting?

Some people think some countries just vote for their neighbours and friends instead of voting for the best song.

For example Greece and Cyprus usually give each other points, while the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland) often exchange votes.

Organisers reintroduced the expert juries in 2009 to try and combat this.

How does the UK do?

Image caption The last time the UK won was in 1997 with Katrina and the Waves

The UK has come second 15 times before and won the contest five times. Ireland has won seven times - more than anybody else.

In 1999 acts no longer had to sing in their national language, so many countries began singing in English.

Since then the UK has done pretty badly - finishing last in 2003, 2008 and 2010.

Last year, the UK's act, Electro Velvet, finished 24th out of 27 participants.

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