In 1955 the EBU's Marcel Bezençon came up with the idea of an international song contest whereby countries, represented by their respective public broadcasters, would compete in one television show, to be transmitted simultaneously to all participating nations. In 1956 the Eurovision Song Contest was born! In part eleven of our Museum Monday series we explore the changes in the Eurovision Song Contest over the years and ask previous winners for their reflections on these developments.
The Eurovision Song Contest is world's longest-running annual TV competition and has been broadcast live every year since it began. Seven countries competed in the very first contest which was held in Lugano, Switzerland. Fast forward sixty years and the Eurovision Song Contest is bigger than ever with two Semi-Finals and a Grand Final. The Eurovision Song Contest has reflected the changing map of Europe and from 1993 new countries joined the competition. In 2008 and 2011, a record 43 countries took part.
Based on the Italian Festival di Sanremo, the Eurovision Song Contest was an extremely ambitious project, satellite television did not exist at the time and international broadcasting was in its infancy. Changes in technology have been reflected in the broadcast; from the introduction of colour transmissions in 1968 to live satellite links in 1994, the Eurovision Song Contest now has some of the highest production values in the world of broadcasting.
After more than 60 years, the Eurovision Song Contest attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, continues to generate hit songs and more importantly, unites countries through a shared love of music. You can read more about the origins of the Eurovision Song Contest in our history section.