Eurovision Song Contest

This section looks at the Eurovision Song Contest from a presentational point of view - logos, graphics, captions, postcards, scoreboards etc. On this page we look at 1956-1966; the other pages in this section cover 1967-1975, 1976-1982, 1983-1989, 1990-1996, 1997-2001, 2002-2005, 2006-2009, 2010-2013, 2014-2017 and 2018.

If you're more interested in the music, click here for our reviews of the contests from 1956-1966.


1956

The first 'Eurovision International Song Competition' took place on Sunday 24th May 1956, and Radio Times noted that it 'may become an annual event'. Although the UK were not participating in the contest, it was still broadcast by BBC Television, with Wilfrid Thomas on commentary duties. The show was hosted by Lohengrin Filipello.

The voting of the first Eurovision was not televised, and the results were never made public. The process this year involved sending two jurors from each competing nation to Switzerland, each of whom gave between 1 and 10 points to each song. As noted in our review section, Switzerland voted on behalf of Luxembourg.

No visual record exists of the first Eurovision Song Contest, other than the reprise of the winning song.


1957

In 1957, the UK entered the contest for the first time, and a recording of the whole show exists. The contest, which took place this year in Frankfurt, moved to a March slot, and the show would continue to be mostly held in March or April until the end of the 70s.

As with all programmes transmitted via the Eurovision network, each contest begins with the Eurovision symbol accompanied by the opening theme 'Te Deum'.

The concept of 'postcards', the short films that we now see between each song, would not be invented for some years. In 1957, each performer was introduced by the presenter Anaid Plikjan. No on-screen captions were used. There was no interval act this year, with the voting procedure following immediately after the last song had been performed.

Having been impressed by the BBC's method of televising the voting process for their selection show Festival of British Popular Songs, involving calling up a series of regional juries to receive their scores, the EBU adopted a similar format for the Eurovision Song Contest. Curiously, the first Eurovision scoreboard used Roman numerals down the left hand side. The countries' names did not appear on the scoreboard, only the song titles. A revised voting system was introduced, involving a jury in each country consisting of ten members, each of whom awarded one point to their favourite song. The points were then totted up, and the results announced down a telephone line. The scores were announced in the order that the songs had been performed. The UK's points were announced by David Jacobs; he was the only spokesperson to do so in English. The whole voting process took a mere twelve minutes.

This scoring method continued to be used each year until 1961, and then again at various times until 1974, with a number of different methods also being tried out, until a permanent system was settled on in 1975.


1958

The BBC took a year out from competing in the contest, presented by Hannie Lips, in 1958. However it still broadcast an edited telerecording on the Sunday afternoon, commentated by Peter Haigh, four days after the contest had taken place in Hilversum in the Netherlands. There was not yet a set day of the week for the contest, nor a set timeslot.

On-screen captions to introduce the songs were used for the first time. The scoreboard used two columns of numbers; the left hand one showed the number of points awarded by the voting country, and the right hand one displayed the cumulative score.


1959

The UK were back in 1959, and the BBC transmitted the contest live, with Tom Sloan commentating on the show which was presented from Cannes.

As in 1957, there were no on-screen captions, with each performing artist introduced by presenter Jacqueline Joubert. She also had a handy stick to point at the scoreboard, which now included the country names. Pete Murray announced the UK votes.


1960

The BBC hosted the 1960 contest from the Royal Festival Hall in London, presented by Katie Boyle on the first of four occasions. It was the first time the contest had been presented in English. David Jacobs commentated for the first of six occasions, and Nick Burrell-Davis announced the UK's points.

Full-screen captions appeared for around twenty seconds between each performance, giving time for the national commentators time to introduce the song.


1961

Eurovision 1961 was back in Cannes, with Jacqueline Joubert hosting once again, and Tom Sloan back on commentary duties. Michael Aspel announced the UK's votes. As in 1959, each song was introduced by the presenter.


1962

The 1962 show came from Villa Louvigny in Luxembourg, with Mireille Delanoy presenting. David Jacobs returned to the commentary box for the UK, and he would remain in this role each year until 1966. On-screen captions introduced each song.

A new scoring system was tried out this year - each national jury now awarded 3, 2 and 1 points to its top three songs. The effect of this was that an increased number of entries would now find themselves ending the night with no points at all. Alex Macintosh announced the points for the UK.


1963

Eurovision 1963 was presented by Katie Boyle from Studios 2 and 3 at BBC Television Centre in London. The BBC used the opening sequence to show off its recently-built broadcasting hub, with views of the building taken from a helicopter. From this year, the Eurovision final would always take place on Saturday evenings, with the show beginning at 21.00 GMT.

A map of Europe appeared between each song, with a flashing light indicating the country that the upcoming song was representing.

The scoring system was revised from last year, with each jury now awarding 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points to its top five songs - presumably in an attempt to reduce the number of songs scoring 'nul points'.

Each national spokesperson was meant to announce the number of the song on the scoreboard, followed by the name of the country, then the score, in the order that songs had been performed. Norway's failure to follow these rules to the letter led to them being recalled at the end of voting to confirm their scores, even though they had been clearly heard by everyone first time around, and the points added to the scoreboard. This was to lead to possibly the most controversial moment in Eurovision voting history - their votes were different the second time around, which led to Switzerland's score having two points taken off it, and Denmark's having two points added to it, thus changing the outcome of the contest.

Sources differ as to who announced the UK's points - it was either Pete Murray or Nicholas Parsons.


1964

No video recording exists of the 1964 contest, apart from the reprise of the winning song. It was presented from Copenhagen by Lotte Waeve, with Desmond Carrington announcing the UK votes. The scoring system was revised yet again, with each jury now awarding 5, 3 and 1 points to its top three songs. Alternatively, if the jury only liked two songs, they could award 6 and 3 points to its top two songs - or if the jurors all rated the same song as the best, they could simply award 9 points to that song, and nothing to anyone else.


1965

Eurovision 1965 came from the RAI Concert Hall in Naples. Presenter Renata Maura introduced each song, with no captions in use. This was the last time until 1982 that the presenter appeared in vision between each song.

The contest again used the scoring system introduced the previous year, with Alastair Burnet reading out the UK's points. Possibly the most curious Eurovision scoreboard of all-time was used in 1965. Unfortunately, the screenshot here isn't terribly clear, but rather than expressing the scores in numerical form, it used a kind of bar chart system, with black lines that gradually crept across the board. This experiment was never repeated


1966

Eurovision returned to the CLT Studios at the Villa Louvigny, Luxembourg in 1966, with Josiane Shen presenting. This was the final year that the 1964 scoring system was used, and the last time that David Jacobs would commentate for the BBC. The UK's jury spokesman was Michael Aspel. A more traditional type of scoreboard was reintroduced this year.

Scenes of the audience appeared between the songs while the commentators introduced the next performance, with captions not in use.

This year saw the arrival of Clifford Brown as the Executive Supervisor and scutineer of the Eurovision Song Contest. The role involves overseeing the voting process, ensuring that the points are awarded correctly and in line with the rules of the contest. He would remain in this role until 1977.


Next page: 1967-1975


Text copyright © Robert Williams, images copyright © the respective broadcasters