Occasionally we get so caught up in the Eurovision action that we forget some people are still new to the whole competition. If that’s you there’s no need to worry – we’ve got our guide to how the competition works right here!
The Eurovision Song Contest is essentially a massive performing and singing competition held each year in May. All songs are performed live and must be no more than 3 minutes long. Generally winners try to entertain with a good song performed well live, although occasionally they will rely on other gimmicks (novelty lyrics, interesting stage props, outlandish costumes) in order to get more attention.
Any country that is a member of the European Broadcasting Union may send a song to the competition. These may be selected through national, televised competitions or privately selected by a group of experts in that country. Most countries will then compete in one of two semi finals, held on the Tuesday and Thursday before the competition with the Top 10 acts from each semi (those who get the most votes) going through to the grand final on the Saturday. These 20 songs join the Big 6 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, The UK and the previous year’s winning country) to create a 26-strong line up on the big night.
Only countries who submitted a song to the competition can vote, usually meaning about 40 countries in total. As of 2016, each country awards 2 scores, one from the five-member jury panel and one from the phone-voting public. The juries are made up of music industry experts (for example song writers, managers, performers, journalists) who will vote on each song, creating a ranking of all 26 performances, awarding points to the Top 10 songs. The public televoting takes place via phone and text message after all the songs have been performed, usually for a 15 minute window. You cannot vote for the country which you are currently in (people in the UK can’t vote for the UK for example) but you can vote up to 20 times.
Once the phone lines are closed, and the votes counted and verified, we will begin the long process of the results. This is a major part of Eurovision and can usually be expected to last over an hour. In turn (often alphabetically) the hosts will contact each voting country where a representative will reveal who won their jury vote. Points are awarded each time a country is ranked in a Top 10 following the system 1st = 12 points, 2nd = 10 points, 3rd = 8 points, 4th = 7 points, 5th = 6 points, and so on until 10th = 1 point. These points create a leadership table that is updated in real time, showing where each of the 26 songs ranks in the competition so far. After all this is finished, the televoting points from all the countries are combined and announced in reverse order. So, for example, a country ranking 10th in 3 countries, and 9th in one will have earned a total of 5 points and will be awarded these all in one go (probably fairly early on) in the second round of results.
Once all the votes are in, the winner is simply the song with the most points. In the case of a tie, the song that received the highest number of 1st place (12 point) rankings will win. This country can then claim the prize and will host the competition the following year (unless they are already hosting this year, in which case the second place country will normally get to host, but the first place country is still considered the winner). The show will close with the winner performing their song again, in case you managed to forget what it sounded like after all that time spent voting!
What else do I need to know?
Eurovision on the surface is just a big international talent competition but underneath it is also a massive gay extravaganza and a lesson in European geography and politics.
The divas, OTT costumes and general leaning towards better LGBTQ inclusion tend to draw a pro-LGBTQ audience, and occasionally homophobia-driven boycotts (the governments of Russia and Turkey tend to make a big deal of it, but generally their complaints go largely ignored, even in their own countries).
On the other side of things, most fans (even the Europeans) often find themselves learning a little bit more about the continent’s history and politics each year, based on the who-votes-for-whom effect. With the televote results being combined this year, the evidence of this is expected to be less obvious than in years gone by.
Finally, there’s the dreaded nil points. With so many points on offer it’s a major feat to achieve 0, but it does happen. Keep an eye on the other end of the results table for some extra tension!
In a Tweet?
#Eurovision is crazy, annual talent competition, tinged with novelty that’s a full night’s entertainment and geography lesson to millions.