The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson since 1973; sometimes popularly called Eurovision or Grand Prix but not to be confused with the Eurovision network that broadcasts it) is the longest-running annual international TV song competition, held, primarily, among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) since 1956. The competition was based upon the existing Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy since 1951.
Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The contest has been broadcast every year for sixty-two years, since its inauguration in 1956, and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally. Eurovision has also been broadcast outside Europe to several countries that do not compete, such as the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and China. An exception was made in 2015, when Australia was allowed to compete as a guest entrant as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the event. In November 2015, the EBU announced that Australia was invited back as a participant in the 2016 contest after their success in 2015. Following their success again in 2016, Australia competed again in 2017. Since 2000, the contest has also been broadcast over the Internet via the Eurovision website.
Winning the Eurovision Song Contest provides a short-term boost to the winning artists' career, but rarely results in long-term success. Notable exceptions are ABBA (winner in 1974 for Sweden), Bucks Fizz (winner in 1981 for the United Kingdom) and Céline Dion (winner in 1988 for Switzerland), all of whom launched successful worldwide careers after their wins.
Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins, having won the contest seven times—including four times in five years in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996. Under the current voting system, the highest scoring winner is Salvador Sobral of Portugal who won the 2017 contest in Kiev, Ukraine, with 758 points. Under the previous system, in place from 1975 to 2015, the highest scoring winner is Alexander Rybak of Norway with 387 points in 2009.
In the 1950s, as a war-torn Europe rebuilt itself, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)—based in Switzerland—set up an ad hoc committee to search for ways of bringing together the countries of the EBU around a "light entertainment programme". At a committee meeting held in Monaco in January 1955 with Marcel Bezençon of the Swiss television as chairman, the committee conceived the idea (initially proposed by Sergio Pugliese of the Italian television RAI) of an international song contest where countries would participate in one television programme to be transmitted simultaneously to all countries of the union. The competition was based upon the existing Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy and was seen as a technological experiment in live television, as in those days it was a very ambitious project to join many countries together in a wide-area international network. Satellite television did not exist, and the Eurovision Network comprised a terrestrial microwave network. The concept, then known as "Eurovision Grand Prix", was approved by the EBU General Assembly in a meeting held in Rome on 19 October 1955, and it was decided that the first contest would take place in spring 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland. The name "Eurovision" was first used in relation to the EBU's network by British journalist George Campey in the London Evening Standard in 1951.