Love it or hate it, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the biggest international events. The 2016 Contest in Stockholm saw 204 million watchers around Europe (and Australia), making it the most watched event of the night in the majority of the countries taking part.
The Eurovision Song Contest (originally Eurovision Grand Prix) was created in 1956 in Switzerland to try to unify war-torn Europe through light entertainment, as it would give the countries in Europe a shared low-stakes event to compete against each other at.
However, owing to its international popularity, there are controversies surrounding the contest- particularly about politics. It is often argued that it isn't a competition of music, instead competition of who is popular and unpopular in Europe. Terry Wogan, the UK’s former presenter of Eurovision, stepped down from his role in 2008, saying “The voting used to be about the songs. Now it’s about national prejudices. We (the UK) are on our own. We had a very good song, a very good singer, we came joint last. I don’t want to be presiding over another debacle.” After the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War from 2003, the UK has failed to score very highly, entering the top 10 only once, in 2009. While it could be that the quality of the British contestants is the cause of this, it is most likely a result of the UK’s unpopularity in Europe after the invasion of Iraq, as shown by the UK receiving its first “nul points” in 2003, immediately after the beginning of the Iraq war.
The effect of politics is also shown in the “voting blocs”, where competing countries form alliances to vote for each other. These voting blocs were so influential that in 2009, national juries were introduced alongside the televote, providing 50% of the points for each country. However, the voting blocs are still recognised in Eurovision, as during the presentation of votes there is often booing from the crowd, particularly during the former USSR countries’ votes.