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May the best song win

For over sixty years, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has united countries, peoples, cultures—and a continent—through a shared love for our universal language: music.

Each participating country perform live their national song which is simultaneously broadcast in a spectacular live show to be seen and heard around the world. Competing acts perform sequentially before Europe is invited to cast their votes and pick their winning song.

The votes of the each country are split equally between the viewing public and a jury of musical professionals. The results are announced live on the night: every Eurovision ends with a new Grand Prix champion.

Arising out of humble beginnings, hundreds of millions of people now stream and tune-in to the world's biggest music contest every year, and hear the iconic words: "Good evening, Europe!"

An icon of the Eurovision Song Contest: the handmade glass microphone, handed to the winner of the world's biggest music contest. (Photo: EBU)

The inaugural edition of Eurovision Song Contest, held in 1956 in Switzerland. (Photo: EBU)

Creating unity

At the end of World War II, an alliance of public-service media entities established the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to foster programming exchanges and provide technical information and standards to member organisations. Emerging out of the shadow of war, cohesion and cooperation were mobilising factors in the creation of the EBU, and were shining lights for the pan-European projects that the organisation undertook to introduce to the continent.

The first edition of the Eurovision Song Contest was broadcast from Switzerland in 1956 with the espoused goal of uniting a war-torn Europe through popular music. Exploiting the nascent medium of live television, it also provided a young organisation with the opportunity to embed itself in Europe’s rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Through highs and lows

Eurovision has stood alongside key moments in European history, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the expansion of the European Union, and, indeed, as the ideals of European integration have been tested and critiqued over time.

Yet, the appeal of Eurovision has rarely waned despite varying attitudes to this project of European integration.

The 62nd edition of Eurovision—held in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2018—boasted 182 million viewers in 42 markets, shoring up the show’s claim to the title of the largest, most-watched and longest-running television music competition in the world.

A sea of flags, seen here at the ESC 2014, is a common sight. (Photo: EBU)