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The Eurovision Song Contest - everything you need to know

The world’s biggest music competition returns this month as the Eurovision Song Contest, one of the longest-running and most-watched non-sporting events in the world, is broadcast live from Rotterdam across the BBC.

In celebration of the biggest music competition in the world, the BBC is promising plenty of Eurovision content across TV, radio and online.

The Netherlands will play host to the competition following the country's victory in 2019 in Israel with Duncan Laurence who wrote and performed Arcade.

The last Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final to be broadcast on BBC One in 2019 was the most watched music programme on the BBC that year and it was the most popular music TV show of the year amongst 16-34s.

This year marks the 65th edition of the competition, after it was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year there will be 39 countries competing in the contest, including two semi-finals that will be broadcast live on BBC Four, and the grand final which will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio 2.

As one of the Big Five countries (United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France, Italy), the United Kingdom does not have to qualify from the semi-final stage of the competition and will gain automatic access to the Saturday Grand Final. The Netherlands, as host, also has automatic qualification to the Grand Final.

Multi-platinum selling, Brit award-winning and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter James Newman will be representing the UK with his single Embers, released by BMG after the renewed collaboration with BBC Studios for the contest.

The result of the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest will be determined by a 50/50 vote. 50% of the votes come from the televoting in each participating country and the other 50% of votes will come from a group of five music professionals from each of the 39 countries taking part.

Director of Entertainment, Kate Phillips says:

"Eurovision is coming back with a boom bang a bang to the BBC this year! After a year without the live contest, we can’t wait for it to return bigger and better. We’ll be celebrating Eurovision across the BBC on all our platforms, from TV, radio and online.

“Over on BBC Four, coverage will go beyond the semi-finals, where viewers can watch some classic Eurovision moments from across the years. Radio 2 continues to be the home of Eurovision on the airwaves, and Radio 1 Newsbeat brings an exclusive documentary to iPlayer following James Newman and his journey to Rotterdam! Not forgetting the Grand Final over on BBC One, plus so much more brilliant Eurovision content not to be missed this May on the BBC!"

Graham Norton will return for the Grand Final on BBC One, produced by BBC Studios, where he will be commentating live from Rotterdam. While Ken Bruce will continue his long-running coverage over on BBC Radio 2.

Grammy-nominated singer songwriter and presenter, Chelcee Grimes will be joining Rylan Clark-Neal and Scott Mills for the semi-finals live on BBC Four. Presenting live from London, they will oversee proceedings as 33 countries compete for their place in the Grand Final. The semi-finals will air on 18 and 20 May on BBC Four, with UK viewers able to vote in the second semi-final on 20 May.

Graham Norton returns for his 12th Eurovision Song Contest on BBC One. After commentating last year on Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light, he will return to his coveted post for this year’s live Grand Final.

Actress and singer, Amanda Holden will be taking the reins of the Eurovision Spokesperson, where she will be delivering the results of the UK professional jury vote live from London. She follows in the illustrious footsteps of Nigella Lawson, Mel Giedroyc, Richard Osman, Alex Jones, Cheryl Baker, Katrina Leskanich from Katrina & The Waves, and Lorraine Kelly.

Graham Norton says:

"I’m so excited for Eurovision to return, after the past year we’ve had it’s exactly the kind of joy the world needs. The UK have a great entry with James Newman and Embers, it’s a banger and represents everything that Eurovision is. It’s arguably the best night of the year and I can’t wait - bring it on!"

Ken Bruce says:

"Radio 2 is getting right behind Eurovision 2021 with shows galore to delight all the fans. We’re all so delighted the competition is back this year. On the night I’ll be presenting the live show from my hot seat at Wogan House - bringing listeners all the entries, all the drama and, of course, the ultimate winner! Will it be the UK’s year to finally win again? I can’t wait to find out!"

Rylan Clark-Neal says:

"There was a big Eurovision shaped hole in my life last year, so I am super excited to see what everyone brings to the table for 2021 - it’s the best time of the year! I am looking forward to being reunited with Scott for the semi-finals and to welcome Chelcee to the team! Plus Embers is an absolute tune - I can’t wait!"

Scott Mills says:

"Eurovision week is my favourite of the year and I cannot wait for the biggest entertainment show on the planet to return! Although we won’t be in Rotterdam ourselves, Rylan, Chelcee and I will definitely make sure we’re still throwing the ultimate can’t miss celebration for this year’s semi-finals”

Chelcee Grimes says:

"I am super excited to be joining the Eurovision family, I can’t wait to host the semi-finals alongside Scott and Rylan, it’s going to be awesome. I have always been a fan of Eurovision, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing all the weird and wonderful performances, as well as cheering on my mate James who is waving the flag for the UK! James and I have written together for a previous Eurovision winner and we've also penned some songs for the Romanian entrant so he is the best person for the job. JAMES TO WIN!"

Amanda Holden says:

"What an honour to announce the UK’s votes this year. I’m utterly thrilled. It’s an ambition ticked after 45 years of watching it! Now, what to wear…"

You can follow updates on the BBC’s Eurovision social channels, available via Twitter (@bbceurovision) Instagram (bbceurovision) and Facebook (BBC Eurovision).

BBC ONE | GRAND FINAL | Saturday 22 May | 8pm

Graham Norton will provide the commentary on BBC One for Europe’s biggest party night of the year.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2021, will be hosted by Chantal Janzen, Jan Smit, Edsilia Rombley and Nikkie de Jager (also known as NikkieTutorials) and broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Radio 2. The qualifying acts from the semi-finals will join hosts Netherlands plus the Big Five countries France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom in the Grand Final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest from The Ahoy in Rotterdam.

This year we will see interval performances from Dutch DJ Afrojack featuring Glennis Grace and Wulf as they will perform Music Binds Us a specially commissioned piece for the Grand Final. Current reigning Eurovison winner from 2019, Duncan Laurence, will be performing his winning song Arcade. Plus we will a multi act performance entitled Rock the Roof, a collaboration featuring six former Eurovision winners - Lenny Kuhr (1969), Teach-In (1975), Sandra Kim (1986), Helena Paparizou (2005), Lordi (2006) and Måns Zelmerlöw (2015).

Voting procedure

After viewers have cast their votes, each national spokesperson from the 39 participating countries will be called in to present the points of their professional jury. Amanda Holden will be the United Kingdom’s spokesperson, delivering the all-important results live from London.

After the presentation of the scores from the juries, the televoting points from all participating countries will be combined, providing one score for each song. These televoting results will then be announced by the host building towards a dramatic climax.

More details regarding the voting procedure and how you can get involved can be found at

BBC FOUR | SEMI-FINALS | Tuesday 18 May | 8pm

The semi-finals will be live on BBC Four, presented by Rylan Clark-Neal, Scott Mills and Chelcee Grimes.

In the first semi-final, the first group of countries will compete for a place in Saturday’s Grand Final.

The 16 countries competing are: Lithuania, Slovenia, Russia, Sweden, Australia, North Macedonia, Ireland, Cyprus, Norway, Croatia, Belgium, Israel, Romania, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Malta.

Opening the show is The Netherlands Duncan Laurence, the most recent winner of Eurovision from 2019. Since 2019 Duncan's Eurovision winning song Arcade became a TikTok phenomenon, and earlier this year it returned to the UK charts along with an appearance in US Billboard charts.

Highlights of the first semi-final includes one of the bookies favourites Destiny, who is representing Malta. Also appearing is a Russian rapper who is also a women's rights activist, a Ukrainian electro-folklore outfit, and a Cypriot act whose song El Diablo has faced protests from some of the country's devout Christian community.

Thursday 20 May | 8pm

The second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 will feature 17 different acts taking to the stage in the hope of securing a place in Saturday’s Grand Final.

Competing this evening are: San Marino, Estonia, Czech Republic, Greece, Austria, Poland, Moldova, Iceland, Serbia, Georgia, Albania, Portugal, Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia, Switzerland and Denmark.

Viewers in the United Kingdom are able to vote in this semi-final once all of the nights acts have performed.

Highlights of the second semi-final include one of the bookies favourites, San Marino with their entrant Senhit. Plus Daði Freyr is back for Iceland. Daði was due to appear last year and even though the contest was cancelled, their entry Think About Things was a viral sensation racking up more than 75 million Spotify Streams.

Classic Eurovision content on Friday 21 May...

The A-Z of Eurovision

Rylan Clark-Neal narrates a guide to all things Eurovision in this compilation of highlights, as he takes a sideways look at the greatest singing contest on the planet.

Moving through the alphabet, Rylan will be taking us from A, which is of course for Abba & Azerbaijan but also animals - featuring the Italian gorilla suit man and Azerbaijan’s artist dancing with a horse’s head through Z is for Zelmerlöw, Måns Zelmerlöw to be precise. The only Eurovision performer to have won the contest, hosted the contest and taken part in an interval act.

The A-Z of Eurovision, first broadcast in 2020 and produced by BBC Studios, will feature all the disasters, the costume changes and memorable musical moments from 65 years of Eurovision.

Eurovision at 60

First shown to celebrate the Eurovision Song Contest’s 60th anniversary in 2015, BBC Four joins the celebrations with an appreciation of the joy, fun, scandal and intrigue that has defined the Eurovision Song Contest.

It’s a story of pioneering songs, singers and programme makers; complex and extraordinary technology, laborious voting and a bit of naughtiness. Above all, it can be argued that Eurovision is a symbol of tolerance. As Graham Norton says of Conchita Wurst’s 2014 win: “The people had spoken… and they were nicer and more tolerant people than their governments let us think.”

This documentary features interviews with Graham Norton, Conchita Wurst, Sir Terry Wogan and a whole host of Eurovision stars, songwriters and programme makers.

Abba at the BBC

Abba at the BBC charts the meteoric rise of the band with some of their greatest performances at the BBC. We begin in 1974 with their Top of the Pops appearance; we even get to see the band entertaining holidaymakers in Torbay in a 1975 Seaside Special.

There are many classic ABBA tunes from the 1979 BBC special Abba in Switzerland and we even have ABBA's final BBC appearance on the Late Late Breakfast show in 1982.

This compilation is a must for all Abba fans and includes great archive interviews, promos and performances of some of Abba's classics from Waterloo, Dancing Queen, Does Your Mother Know, Thank You for the Music, S.O.S, Fernando and Chiquitita, plus many more.


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