SWITZERLAND – In the 1950s, as a war-torn Europe rebuilt itself, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)—based in Switzerland—set up an ad hoc committee to search for ways of bringing together the countries of the EBU around a “light entertainment programme”.
At a committee meeting held in Monaco in January 1955 with Marcel Bezençon of the Swiss television as chairman, the committee conceived the idea (initially proposed by Sergio Pugliese of the Italian television RAI) of an international song contest where countries would participate in one television programme to be transmitted simultaneously to all countries of the union.
The competition was based upon the existing Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy and was seen as a technological experiment in live television, as in those days it was a very ambitious project to join many countries together in a wide-area international network.
Satellite television did not exist, and the Eurovision Network comprised a terrestrial microwave network. The concept, then known as “Eurovision Grand Prix”, was approved by the EBU General Assembly in a meeting held in Rome on 19 October 1955, and it was decided that the first contest would take place in spring 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland.
The name “Eurovision” was first used in relation to the EBU’s network by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951.
The first contest was held in the town of Lugano, Switzerland, on 24 May 1956. Seven countries participated—each submitting two songs, for a total of 14. This was the only contest in which more than one song per country was performed: since 1957, all contests have allowed one entry per country. The 1956 contest was won by the host nation, Switzerland.
The programme was first known as the “Eurovision Grand Prix” (in English). This “Grand Prix” name was adopted by Germany, Denmark, Norway and the Francophone countries, with the French designation being Le Grand-Prix Eurovision de la Chanson Européenne.
The “Grand Prix” has been dropped in 1973 and replaced with Concours (contest) in French and in 2001 with the English name in German, but not in Danish or Norwegian. The Eurovision network is used to carry many news and sports programmes internationally, among other specialised events organised by the EBU. However, in the minds of the public, the name “Eurovision” is most closely associated with the Song Contest.
The former generic logo was introduced for the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest in Turkey, to create a consistent visual identity. The host country’s flag appears in the heart of the generic logo. Each year of the contest, the host country creates a sub-theme which is usually accompanied and expressed with a sub-logo and slogan. The theme and slogan are announced by the EBU and the host country’s national broadcaster.
The generic logo was revamped in 2014, ten years after the first generic logo was created. The revamped logo was conducted by lead designer Cornelis Jacobs and his team of Cityzen Agency. The logo was used for the first time in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, the 60th anniversary of the contest.
Since the 2002 contest, slogans have been introduced in the show (2009 being the only exception). The slogan is decided by the host broadcaster and based on the slogan, the theme and the visual design are developed.
The contest has long been accused by some of political bias; the perception is that judges and televoters allocate points based on their nation’s relationship to the other countries, rather than the musical merits of the songs. According to one study of Eurovision voting patterns, certain countries tend to form “clusters” or “cliques” by frequently voting in the same way. Another study concludes that as of 2006, voting blocs have, on at least two occasions, crucially affected the outcome of the contest. On the other hand, others argue that certain countries allocate disproportionately high points to others because of similar musical tastes and cultures and because they speak similar languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate each other’s music.
As an example, Terry Wogan, the United Kingdom’s well-known presenter of Eurovision since 1980 and one of the only three presenters mentioned by name during the contest proper stood down from the BBC One’s broadcast in 2008 saying “The voting used to be about the songs. Now it’s about national prejudices. We [the United Kingdom] are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don’t want to be presiding over another debacle”.
Another influential factor is the high proportion of expatriates and ethnic minorities living in certain countries. Although judges and televoters cannot vote for their own country’s entry, expatriates can vote for their country of origin.
The total numbers of points to be distributed by each country are equal, irrespective of the country’s population. Thus voters in countries with larger populations have less power as individuals to influence the result of the contest than those voting in smaller countries. For example, San Marino holds the same voting power as Russia despite the vast geographic and population differences between them.
To try to reduce the effect of voting blocs, national juries were re-introduced alongside televoting in the final in 2009: each contributing 50% of the vote. This hybrid system was expanded in 2010 to also be implemented in the semi-finals. However, since 1994 no country has won two years in a row, and semi-finals have also been won by different countries, until 2012 when Sweden won the second semi-final in 2011 and 2012. Although many of them used to give their 12 points to the same country each year, like Cyprus and Greece, it has been noticed that factors such as the sets of other high votes received (7, 8 or 10 points) and the number of countries giving points to a specific entry, also highly affect the final positions.
From 2013 onwards, the final and the semi-finals running order of the competing performances at the semi-finals and the final has been decided by the show’s producers and then approved by the EBU Executive Supervisor and the Reference Group.
An “allocation draw” occurs for the final and the semi-finals with each nation drawing to perform in the first or second half. Prior to 2013, the order was decided at random (though when the host nation performs is still decided at random, to ensure fairness). The change in procedure was aimed to make the show more exciting and ensure that all contestants had a chance to stand out, preventing entries that are too similar from cancelling each other out. The decision elicited mixed reactions from both fans and participating broadcasters.
Some fans have alleged that there is a risk of corruption and that the order can be manipulated to benefit certain countries, since the running order is considered to be of importance to the result. Following the 2016 edition, the only regularly contested positions in the running order that have never won the contest are numbers 2 and 16, with position number 21 winning for the first time in 2016. Position 17 has the most victories, with 7. Positions 25, 26 and 27 haven’t won either, but there have been very few finals with that many participants. (source: wikipedia.org)