United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest
|National selection events|
|United Kingdom's page at Eurovision.tv|
For the most recent participation see|
United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest 2016
The United Kingdom has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 59 times and is one of the most successful countries to compete in the contest. They first participated in the second contest in 1957. The BBC had wanted to take part in the first contest in 1956, but had submitted their entry to the event after the deadline had passed. The UK has entered every year since 1959, and has won the contest a total of five times. Along with Sweden, the UK is one of only two countries with Eurovision victories in four different decades. The United Kingdom is one of the "Big 5", along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain who are automatically allowed to participate in the final as they are the five biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
Up to and including 1998, the UK had only twice finished outside the top 10, in 1978 (11th) and 1987 (13th), with their five winners being Sandie Shaw with the song "Puppet on a String" in 1967, Lulu with "Boom Bang-a-Bang" in 1969 (tied), Brotherhood of Man with "Save Your Kisses for Me" in 1976, Bucks Fizz with "Making Your Mind Up" in 1981 and Katrina and the Waves with "Love, Shine a Light" in 1997. In addition, the UK has finished as runner-up on a record 15 occasions; including Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (1959), Matt Monro (1964), Kathy Kirby (1965), Cliff Richard (1968), Mary Hopkin (1970), The New Seekers (1972), Scott Fitzgerald (1988), Michael Ball (1992), Sonia (1993) and Imaani (1998). Since 1999, the year in which the rule was abandoned that songs must be performed in one of the official languages of the country participating, the UK has had less success, only finishing within the top ten twice. Jessica Garlick in 2002 finished joint third and Jade Ewen in 2009 finished fifth, Ewen in particular was praised after her performance of "It's My Time" for ending the run of poor results the country had suffered for much of the decade.
The British public broadcaster, the BBC, broadcasts the event each year and organises the selection process for the entry. In all cases (prior to 2011), a televised national final has selected the British Eurovision entry, varying between both a selection of performer and song, or just a song selection with an internal selection for the artist being held. For most years, the public had been able to vote for the winner, using in the past postcard voting, where the viewers sent postcards with their vote to the BBC, but more recently televoting. In 2009 and 2010, a new national selection format was held to find the singer who would go on to sing the internally selected song at the contest. From 2011 to 2015, for the first time in UK's Eurovision history, the entry was selected internally by the BBC. This resulted in the national selection process being suspended; however, this returned in 2016.
The United Kingdom has finished last in three contests. Jemini's infamous 2003 "nul points" result was the first time that the country had come last in the contest, something that was then repeated in 2008 with Andy Abraham, who received 14 points and in 2010 with Josh Dubovie, who received 10 points. In 2016, the UK failed to reach the top 10 for the seventh consecutive time, with the duo Joe and Jake finishing 24th.
1950s to 1970s
Patricia Bredin was the first performer to represent the UK at Eurovision, finishing seventh in 1957. At their second attempt in the contest in 1959, the UK achieved the first of their record fifteen runner-up positions, when Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson sang "Sing, Little Birdie". The UK would achieve four more second-place finishes with Bryan Johnson in 1960, The Allisons in 1961, Matt Monro in 1964 and Kathy Kirby in 1965, before eventually winning for the first time in 1967. Sandie Shaw was already a successful performer, having twice topped the UK singles chart and she comfortably won in Vienna with "Puppet on a String", which became her third UK number one and topped the charts all around Europe. In 1968, another successful performer was selected to represent the UK with the song "Congratulations". In London, Cliff Richard gave the UK their sixth second-place finish, losing to Spain's Massiel. "Congratulations" remains one of only two non-winning UK Eurovision songs to top the UK charts. The UK's pulling of second was provided by the Scottish singer Lulu in 1969 with the song "Boom Bang-a-Bang". Another established performer, she had reached the US #1 spot with "To Sir with Love" in 1967.
Having finished second on three further occasions in the 1970s, with Mary Hopkin in 1970, The New Seekers in 1972 and The Shadows in 1975. The UK achieved their third victory in 1976 with Brotherhood of Man and "Save Your Kisses for Me", who won with 164 points, which would remain the highest points total for ten years. In 1977, the UK finished second for the tenth time represented by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran.
1980s and 1990s
The UK's fourth victory came in 1981, with Bucks Fizz and "Making Your Mind Up". The group was created especially for the UK selection contest "A Song for Europe". At Eurovision in Dublin, they defeated Germany's Lena Valaitis by four points. The group went on to continued success, with 13 UK top 40 hits over the next five years. This would be the last UK win for 16 years, although the country continued to be competitive at the contest with four more second-place results during this time. In 1988, Scott Fitzgerald lost to Celine Dion, who was representing Switzerland, by just one point. In 1989, Live Report lost out to Yugoslavia by seven points. Michael Ball in 1992, also finished second, behind Linda Martin of Ireland. The 1993 entry, Sonia, had already had 10 UK top 30 hits, including a 1989 number one with "You'll Never Stop Me Loving You", when she was selected to represent the UK in Millstreet. With one country left to vote, (Malta) Ireland's Niamh Kavanagh led Sonia by 11 points. By the time it got to the announcement of the 12 points, neither the UK or Ireland had been mentioned. If the UK had received the 12, they would have won by one point. In the end Ireland received the top marks and won by 23 points. Despite only finishing eighth in the 1996 contest, Gina G went on to huge success with her entry "Ooh Ah Just a Little Bit", which became only the second non-winning UK entry to top the UK Singles chart. It also reached the US top 20 and received a Grammy nomination. The UK's fifth victory finally came in 1997, when Katrina and the Waves, famous for their 1980s hit "Walking on Sunshine", comfortably won the contest with the song "Love, Shine a Light". They scored 227 points, which would remain the highest points total of the pre semi-final era. At the 1998 contest in Birmingham, Imaani achieved the UK's 15th second-place finish and 20th top two result, with the song "Where Are You?", losing to Israel's Dana International. The UK, as of 2015, has not finished in the top two since.
The UK has fared less well in the contest in the 21st century. Since girl-group Precious finished 12th in 1999, the UK has failed to reach the top ten in all but two of the last 18 contests (1999–2016) – the exceptions being Jessica Garlick, who finished joint third in 2002 with the song "Come Back" (the UK's only top three result of the century), and Jade Ewen, who finished fifth in 2009 with the song "It's My Time", written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Diane Warren. In 2003, the UK finished last for the first time with the duo Jemini, who received the infamous "nul points". This remains the only time the UK has failed to score a single point. The country has finished last on two further occasions, with Andy Abraham, who received 14 points in 2008 and Josh Dubovie, who received 10 points in 2010.
In 2011, the BBC chose the boy band Blue to represent the UK, they finished 11th with 100 points. In 2012, the UK were facing calls to quit the contest when the UK entry, Engelbert Humperdinck, finished 25th (out of 26) with only 12 points. However, the UK confirmed their participation in the 2013 contest, with the Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, most famous for her 1983 US and UK number one hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart", who would perform the song "Believe in Me". In Malmo, she finished 19th with 23 points. She went on to win two internationally voted Eurovison Song Contest radio awards for Best Female Singer and Best Song.
In 2014, the BBC internally selected unknown singer Molly Smitten-Downes, through BBC Introducing, which supports new and unsigned acts. She represented the UK in Copenhagen under her artist name Molly. In the final, she performed the song "Children of the Universe", which she co-wrote with Anders Hansson and finished in 17th place with 40 points, having been regarded as one of the favourites to win the contest. In October 2014, Guy Freeman stated that the BBC are still engaging with record companies and the BBC Introducing platform in order to find an entry for the 2015 contest via the internal selection process, but announced that in addition, for the first time since 2008, they are giving the general public the option to submit an entry for consideration. Ultimately, the entry for 2015 came through open submission, with the song "Still in Love with You" performed by the duo Electro Velvet. The song finished in 24th place, with only five points, the UK's worst performance in terms of points tally since the infamous nul points of 2003. The performance was widely deplored by viewers and openly mocked on social media, with the British media putting increasing pressure on the BBC to change its selection policy for future contests.
On 30 September 2015, the BBC confirmed the national selection show would return in 2016. Six acts competed in the national final on 26 February and the winner was selected entirely through a public vote, consisting of televoting and online voting. "You're Not Alone" performed by Joe and Jake won the national final broadcast live on BBC Four. At the final they came 24th with 62 points in total. Of these only 8 were from the public vote, the second lowest public score, following 0 to the Czech Republic. The BBC has confirmed that they will participate in the 2017 Contest.
United Kingdom and the "Big Four/Five"
In 1999, a rule change allowed the United Kingdom, along with France, Germany and Spain, to automatically qualify for the Eurovision Song Contest final (irrespective of their recent scores and without entering a semi-final), due to being the biggest financial contributors to the EBU. Due to their untouchable status in the Contest, these countries became known as the "Big Four" (which became the "Big Five" in 2011 following the return of Italy to the contest).
In 2008, it was rumoured that the "Big Four" would lose their automatic qualification, and would have to compete in the semi-finals for the first time. However, it was announced by the EBU that this would not be the case and the four countries would still automatically qualify for the final of the 2009 contest without having to enter a semi-final, and this has remained as of 2016.
In 2008, the BBC defended using money from licence fee payers for the contest when Liberal Democrat MP Richard Younger-Ross had tabled a Commons motion which called on the corporation to withdraw its £173,000 funding for the annual contest. That same year, former Eurovision commentator Sir Terry Wogan claimed that the show is "no longer a music contest" after the result was announced.
Since the introduction of the Big Four/Five, the United Kingdom and Germany have both finished last in the contest three times. The United Kingdom also has the fewest top ten results of the Big Five in the 21st century, but has achieved more top five results than Spain, having reached the top five in 2002 and 2009, while Spain has not reached the top five since the 1995 contest.
- Table key
- ^ Spain originally gave its 12 points to Israel and 10 to Norway. After the broadcast it was announced that Spanish broadcaster wrongly tallied the votes and Germany should have got the top mark - 12 points - instead of being snubbed, as it happened. The mistake was corrected and so Germany was placed 7th over Norway. Israel and Norway both received 2 points less than originally and Croatia, Malta, Portugal, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia and Turkey all received one point less than indicated during the broadcast.
Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest
Even though the United Kingdom was entered twice into Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest with Cliff Richard's 1968 runner up entry "Congratulations" and Brotherhood of Man's 1976 winning song "Save Your Kisses for Me", the BBC decided not to participate in airing the event or taking part in the voting for the greatest Eurovision Song of the past fifty years, but instead aired an hour-long special program entitled Boom Bang-a-Bang: 50 Years of Eurovision hosted by Terry Wogan looking back at the best and the worst; songs, fashions, contests, hosts and hostesses that have occurred at the Eurovision over the past fifty years.
- Table key
|Year||Artist||Language||Title||Final||Points||Semi||Points||Place (1968 & 1976)||Points (1968 & 1976)|
|1968||Cliff Richard||English||"Congratulations"||Failed to qualify||8||105||2||28|
|1976||Brotherhood of Man||English||"Save Your Kisses for Me"||5||230||5||154||1||164|
As of 2016, the United Kingdom's voting history is as follows:
The United Kingdom has hosted the Eurovision Song Contest a record eight times. The United Kingdom stepped in and hosted the contest for The Netherlands in 1960, France in 1963, Monaco in 1972 and Luxembourg in 1974 due to winning countries financial and capacity issues. The BBC offered to joint host the 1996 contest in Belfast, Northern Ireland with Irish broadcaster RTÉ if Ireland were to win for a fourth year in a row..
In 2015, London hosted Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits, an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary, which was recorded for television on 31 March 2015 and was shown in 26 countries, starting with the UK and Ireland on 3 April 2015.
Eurovision Song Contest's Greatest Hits
|2015||London||Eventim Apollo||Petra Mede and Graham Norton|
|Year||Category||Song||Performer(s)||Final result||Points||Host City|
|2004||Composer Award||"Hold Onto Our Love"||James Fox||16th||29||Istanbul|
Commentators and spokespersons
Over the years BBC commentary has been provided by several experienced radio and television presenters, including Tom Fleming, David Vine, David Jacobs, Dave Lee Travis, Pete Murray, John Dunn and Michael Aspel. However Terry Wogan provided BBC TV commentary every year from 1980 to 2008. It was confirmed on 12 August 2008 that Terry Wogan would no longer present the Eurovision Song Contest for the UK. The BBC Radio 2 DJ, who had fronted the BBC's coverage for 37 years, said it was "time for someone else to take over". He was replaced in 2009 by Graham Norton for the final. Norton has continued in the role ever since.
The final of the contest has been broadcast by BBC One (previously BBC Television Service and BBC TV) since the first contest in 1956, the first live colour transmission of the contest in the United Kingdom was the Eurovision Song Contest 1970, the first high definition broadcast of the contest began in 2007 when the contest was simulcast on BBC HD. The final is also broadcast on radio, initially on BBC Light Programme until the 1967 contest. From 1968 it was broadcast on BBC Radio 1, moving to BBC Radio 2 from the 1974 contest where it has remained ever since (except for 1983–1985). Between 1963 and 1976 the contest was also broadcast on BFBS Radio. From 2004 to 2015 both semi-finals were broadcast on BBC Three. Since BBC Three became an online only channel in February 2016, semi-final coverage is now broadcast on BBC Four.
In the 1998 Contest, hosted in Birmingham, Terry Wogan acted as both commentator and on-stage presenter (together with Ulrika Jonsson). In the 1980 Contest, each song was introduced by a presenter from the national country, the United Kingdom entry being introduced by Noel Edmonds.
For most contests, a spokesperson has delivered the results of the national jury, or in recent years the results of the televoting, awarding points to the entries on behalf of his or her country. The exceptions were the contests held in 1971–1973 when votes were cast by two jury members present at the contest venue, appearing at the end of the contest to confirm their scores.
No British-born broadcaster has either presented or commentated on the live television final for over thirty years, the last being Jan Leeming in 1982.
- It has to be assumed that Terry Wogan's commentary was taken by BFBS in 1975 since Terry says in his BBC Radio 2 commentary "Richard Astbury sends his apologies to BFBS listeners - technical difficulties".
Additionally, from 2004–2010, Paddy O'Connell commentated on the semi-final shows. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 he was also joined by Sarah Cawood. In 2008 he was joined by Caroline Flack. In recent years, the dual-commentator format during the semi-finals has allowed for the broadcaster to incorporate additional segments, interviews and live viewer interaction, during the programmes live airing.
In 2011, O'Connell was replaced by Scott Mills who provided the commentary from London, while Sara Cox provided interaction from the venue. Cox and Mills both provided commentary again in 2012 from the venue. In 2013, Cox was replaced by Ana Matronic and Matronic was replaced in 2014 by Laura Whitmore. Mel Giedroyc replaced Whitmore as co-commentator in 2015. In 2014, Matronic provided commentary for the second semi-final of the 2014 Contest on BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, a temporary station which was broadcast on DAB radio over four days, as well as the BBC Radio 2 website. She continued this role in 2015.
For several years the Scottish National Party (SNP) has campaigned for a place in Eurovision for Scotland but had been rejected numerous times because Scotland is represented as a part of the British entry and is represented by the BBC.
On 11 February 2008 the EBU stated that a Scottish broadcaster could apply for EBU membership, but under the current rules could not enter the Eurovision Song Contest as the BBC currently has exclusive rights to represent the entire United Kingdom. It was announced in late May 2008 that the UK would be participating in the 2009 Contest and, therefore, Scotland was not represented in 2009 as a separate entrant.
Scotland could be represented by STV, ITV Border or BBC Scotland. MEP Alyn Smith has said in the European Parliament: "Other small countries have done it [entered the competition] and I will be happy to help any of the broadcasting companies through the progress."
If Scotland were to participate it is unknown whether or not England, Wales and Northern Ireland would show any interest in entering the Eurovision Song Contest independently as well, although S4C (the Welsh language media channel) has expressed an interest and, in addition, already holds a yearly national song contest called "Cân i Gymru" (Song for Wales). S4C also considered a bid for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008 but decided not to go ahead. In 2009 MEP for Wales Jillian Evans stated her interest in securing Wales a place in the Eurovision Song Contest 2010, Wales could be represented by either BBC Cymru Wales, ITV Wales & West or S4C. There is a small campaign in Northern Ireland for a separate entrant and it could be represented by UTV or BBC Northern Ireland. There are no plans currently for England to enter separately.
However, to date, these proposed changes have not occurred, and the United Kingdom still participates in the Eurovision Song Contest as a single entrant. It was unknown what would happen if Scotland were to become an independent country. However, on 25 November 2013, the Scottish Government released a referendum blueprint which detailed plans for the transfer of BBC Scotland into the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) and joining the EBU, as well as partaking in competitions, including Scottish entries in the Eurovision Song Contest. However, the referendum result on 18 September 2014 was to remain part of the United Kingdom, and the aforementioned BBC retains exclusive rights to represent the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
- UK national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest
- United Kingdom in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest
- United Kingdom in the Eurovision Dance Contest
- United Kingdom in the Eurovision Young Dancers
- United Kingdom in the Eurovision Young Musicians
- Lawson, Mark (27 May 2012). "A belligerent Eurovision night fit for a broken Europe". (The Guardian). Retrieved 9 June 2012.
- "Bonnie Tyler". Eurovision Song Contest. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- "2013 results". Eurovision.tv. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Mourinho, Daniel (1 July 2013). "Bonnie Tyler receives ESC Radio Award trophies". Eurovision Song Contest Radio. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
- "Molly Smitten-Downes to represent the UK". Eurovision.tv. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- Freeman, Guy (6 October 2014). "Looking forward to 2015". British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "BBC launches open selection for 2015 British entry". Eurovision.tv. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
- "Electro Velvet to represent the UK at Eurovision". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
- "'If this wins, we'll stay in Europe': Britain's Eurovision flops score just five points prompting hilarious reaction online". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- "Public to help choose UK Eurovision entry - BBC News". BBC News Online. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
- Escudero, Victor M.; Roxburgh, Gordon (26 February 2016). "Joe & Jake to represent the United Kingdom in Stockholm". eurovision.tv. European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
- "Eurovision Song Contest: Ukraine's Jamala wins competition - BBC News".
- O'Connor, John Kennedy (2005). The Eurovision Song Contest 50 Years The Official History. London: Carlton Books Limited. ISBN 978-1-84442-586-0.
- Bakker, Sietse (2010-12-31). "43 nations on 2011 participants list". Eurovision.tv. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
- Murray, Gavin (2008-05-28). "Big 4: May lose automatic place in Eurovision final". ESCToday. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- Viniker, Barry (2008-09-14). "Eurovision 'Big Four' final spots confirmed". ESCToday. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- Kilkelly, Daniel (2008-05-26). "BBC defends Eurovision funding". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- Roxburgh, Gordon (3 February 2015). "Official: London to host Eurovision's 60th anniversary event". eurovision.tv. European Broadcasting Union. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
- Archived May 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Fletcher, Alex (2008-08-12). "Terry Wogan quits Eurovision role". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
- "BBC Four takes over Eurovision coverage". a516digital.com. 17 January 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- "X-Factor style hunt for next year's UK Eurovision entry". Retrieved 2016-09-28.
- Darby, Harry (2009-05-01). "United Kingdom: BBC interactive coverage plans". ESC Today. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
- Noone, Alex (2012-03-07). "United Kingdom: Ana Matronic to commentate". ESC Today.
- "Laura adds more Irish sparkle to BBC's eurovision song show". Herald.ie. 5 April 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- BBC Three Entertainment (27 April 2015). "Mel Giedroyc to join Scott Mills as co-host of BBC Three's Eurovision Song Contest Semi Finals coverage". bbc.co.uk. BBC Media Centre. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- "BBC Radio 2 Eurovision Returns!". BBC Eurovision. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- "Scotland heading for 2009 bid?". eurovision.tv. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- Kuipers, Michael (2008-05-28). "United Kingdom will not withdraw". ESCToday. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- "Scotland given the go-ahead to enter Eurovision!". oikotimes.com. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- "Scotland may submit its own Eurovision entry". TheHerald.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- "Scotland Given Go-Ahead To Launch Own Eurovision Entry". DailyRecord.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- "breaking up the United Kingdom? Scotland: first Eurovision Song Contest entry?". esctoday.com. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- Scotland: first Eurovision Song Contest entry?
- "Cân i Gymru". S4C.co.uk.
- Lewis, Cole (2008-07-17). "JESC: UK Less Likely To Participate". ESCToday. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- Northern Ireland for Eurovsion
- "Scotland's Referendum 2014: What will happen to the BBC following independence?". Scottish Government. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- "Scotland's Referendum 2014: Would the Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) join the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)?". Scottish Government. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- Holehouse, Matthew (19 September 2014). "Scottish independence referendum results as it happened". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2016.