FAQ: Eurovision Edition   

Laura Smith

Fire up the wind machines, cover yourself in glitter, and get the pyrotechnics ready, because the second edition of FAQ is going to be about the Eurovision Song Contest!   

What is Eurovision and why does it exist? 

The Eurovision Song Contest (Eurovision or ESC for short) is a song contest which began in 1956 to promote peace and unity within Europe after the Second World War. In the contest’s first year, only seven countries participated. 62 years later, this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has 42 participating countries both within and outside Europe. 

Modern Eurovision is like the Olympics, X Factor, and the Hunger Games combined. You can expect to see glamour, drama, and passion as each country and their representatives are vying for the title of Eurovision Song Contest winner. For the performing artists in particular, there is a lot at stake as well. In the past, the Eurovision Song Contest has helped to build careers for the likes of ABBA, Olivia Newton-John, and Celine Dion, just to name a few.  

What are the rules of Eurovision? 

  • There must be no more than six people on stage per entry. 
  • Songs must not exceed three minutes in length. 
  • Songs must be original and must not be publicly released before September 1 of the previous year. No cover songs or sampling of another artist’s work.  
  • Performers must be 16 years of age or older on the day of the semi-final in the year of the Contest.  
  • You can sing in any language (even if it’s a made-up one!) – but you must sing. No 100% instrumental pieces allowed!  
  • Lyrics must not contain product placement or otherwise promote commercial interests. They also must not be political or too offensive for family TV.  
  • No lip-syncing – all vocals must be performed live! Though musical instruments are currently the exception to this rule. Apologies to those of you who thought Epic Sax Guy was really playing his sax live on stage. 

Why does Australia participate in Eurovision?  

The “official” reason is because we are such huge fans of Eurovision! SBS has been broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest every year since 1983. In 2015, Austria invited us to participate in the 60th Anniversary special of Eurovision (possibly in a move of solidarity in the wake of every country ever confusing us for each other), and we have been invited back every year since then. Australia also shares strong cultural (and colonial) ties with the at-the-time-European-but-sadly-no-longer-the-case United Kingdom, as well as many people migrating to Australia from a wide array of European countries (hello largest Greek population outside of Greece).  

The real official reason is because SBS is a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), and the ESC rules state that every country that is a member state of the EBU is eligible to take part, just like other non-European Eurovision countries who are also EBU members: Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.  

 Why do The Gays love Eurovision so much?  

Eurovision is notorious for its colourful, kitschy, and camp performances. It is also notorious for being one of the few places where queer people can express themselves as openly and authentically as possible and be celebrated for it (however, it should be noted that some countries are far less accepting than others). Plus, we love drama. And glitter. And beautiful ballgowns.  

Is Eurovision safe for a heterosexual like me? 

Did you learn nothing from the previous edition of FAQ? If not, go pick up a copy of Edition 1 of Lot’s Wife 2018.  

How does the voting work?  

Each country’s votes are split into a televote and a national jury vote. During the televote, countries can only vote in the semi-final that they are participating in (or are allocated to, in the case of the host country and the Big 5 countries of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom), and countries cannot vote for themselves. This is so that the contest is not unfairly skewed in the favour of countries with larger populations. The national jury for each country consists of a group of 5 music industry professionals from their respective countries. Did you know that in 2016, Shannon Noll was in the Australian Eurovision jury? It was glorious.  

The top 10 countries from both the televote and the national jury vote of each country score points from that country. The countries that ranked tenth through third will get one through eight points, the second-highest ranked country gets 10 points, and the highest ranked country will receive the coveted douze points (12 points). As of 2016, both these rankings get counted separately, making for some very high scores. To further add suspense, the public vote totals for all the countries get combined and only added to the score at the very end of the voting. This means that the leader in the jury vote may not necessarily win the contest, as scores can change wildly with the addition of the televoting points. The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest is the entry with the most points at the end of the voting, and that country gets to host the following year’s contest.  

If Australia wins Eurovision, do we get to host? 

Sadly, due to an annoying thing called time zones and distance (and another annoying thing called our agreement with the EBU), if Australia wins, we must choose a European city to host the Eurovision Song Contest. More specifically, Germany and the United Kingdom have both been tipped as potential host countries in the event of an Aussie Eurovision victory.  

Who is Australia sending to Eurovision this year? 

This year, Australia is sending Jessica Mauboy to Eurovision. While she represented Australia during the interval act in Copenhagen in 2014, this time, she will get to represent us as a competitor, earning points for Australia. At the time of writing, her song has not yet been selected.  

 How many times can we win or lose? How many times can we break the walls between us? 

Only teardrops. (Yes, that’s a legitimate number now. Just ask Emmelie de Forest) 

 What’s the best way to keep up with all the upcoming acts? 

Subscribing to the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel is the best way to keep track of all the songs as they are officially released (at the time of writing this article, not all songs have been released). Many fans on YouTube also periodically make their own lists ranking all the performances as new songs come out, with short snippets from each song. Alternatively, if there’s a particular artist you like, you should follow them on Spotify or other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.  

 What are the core ingredients for a FABULOUS Eurovision party? 

  • Costumes! Don’t worry if your budget is low, as there are still plenty of opportunities to look ready to take on the Eurovision stage. Don a beard and a wig to dress up as Conchita Wurst. Grab your sunnies, a suit, and a sax* to be Epic Sax Guy himself. Or recreate Verka Serduchka’s look with some tin foil. The sky’s the limit!  
  • Food and drinks! What better way is there to celebrate Eurovision than to have food and drinks from a selection of the competing countries (or all 42, if you’re feeling extra-ambitious). From Greek baklava to Spanish tapas to the tried-and-true Aussie meat pies and fairy bread, there’s sure to be something to please everyone. 
  • Games! Aside from the plethora of drinking games available, a common game is to hold a Eurovision sweep, where guests draw countries out of a hat to cheer on. You can even have a prize for whoever picks the winner! 
  • Social media! The twitter feeds always come alive during Eurovision for both the live and the prime-time broadcasts, so be sure to come armed with your wittiest quips about the performances. If you’re extra hilarious, you might even be able to get your tweet on the TV! 
  • Friends! Eurovision is always better when you come together to celebrate, so make sure to invite your friends over for a viewing party. A great idea is to hold a sleepover on the Saturday night before the Grand Final, watch the repeat broadcast of Semi Final 2 on SBS, then watch the Grand Final live on Sunday morning. Or just have a party for the Grand Final on the Sunday night if you’re not a morning person.

    Don’t have friends? Worried your “friends” are going to judge you for being far too emotionally invested in Eurovision? Fear not, because Australia’s very own Eurovision fan club is here to help! For the extra-keen fans, the OGAE Australia Eurovision fan club is hosting a preview party in Melbourne on Tuesday 24th April 2018, with further details on official viewing parties to come soon. Stay tuned for more information!  

Where and when can I watch Eurovision this year?  

Get ready to set your alarm clocks, because SBS will be broadcasting Eurovision live from Lisbon, Portugal. Although the official broadcast times have not yet been confirmed by SBS at the time of writing, our in-house experts estimate that the broadcast will start anywhere between 3:00 am and 5:00 am Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). There will also be a live stream on the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube Channel at this time, though there is usually about a minute worth of lag between the TV broadcast and the YouTube stream. The YouTube stream also has no live commentary. Be sure to save the following dates (AEST):  

 Semi Final 1: Wednesday 9th May 2018  

Semi Final 2: Friday 11th May 2018 (we can vote in this one!)  

Grand Final: Sunday 13th May 2018 

 SBS will also be broadcasting repeats at more reasonable Australian prime-time hours, but be sure to avoid spoilers on social media where possible! While the official time is not yet locked in for this year, broadcasts in previous years have generally started at around 7:30pm (and in previous years, there has been a repeat broadcast immediately after these ones on SBS2): 

 Semi Final 1: Friday 11th May 2018  

Semi Final 2: Saturday 12th May 2018 

Grand Final: Sunday 13th May 2018 

Tags : Eurovision
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