The Big Five group of automatic qualifiers is an iconic part of Eurovision, but in recent days rumours have emerged on social media suggesting that the Big Five may soon become the Big Seven. Online chat is claiming that Russia and Turkey will join the automatic qualifiers in 2020. But is this actually true? In short, no.
The fake news seems to have originated from some readers misinterpreting an article covering a recent online chat with Eurovision Reference Group chairperson Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling.
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Posted by Dr. Eurovision on Sunday, January 20, 2019
Eurovoix’s excellent article covers the video chat, which took place between Dr Frank-Dieter Freiling and Dr Irving Wolther (aka “Dr Eurovision”). The discussion was in German and Eurovoix provided written translations of some of the subjects of interest to Eurovision fans.
The topic of the Big Five was raised, and Dr Freiling explained the reasons for having the automatic qualifers:
“We need to make sure that the budget for the Eurovision Song Contest is balanced, and the major part of televotes is coming from the big countries. The rule was implemented to make sure that the majority of spectators and thus the majority of televoters who live in the big countries can enjoy the show and take part in the voting process, and I think that this has proven to be a good solution.”
In short, when Big Five countries are guaranteed to be in the grand final, more people from those countries will be inspired to watch and vote, meaning more income for the song contest. (Hey, the funding has to come from somewhere!)
Dr Freiling also discussed the possibility of other large countries joining the list of automatic qualifiers:
“Of course one could consider countries like Turkey or Russia to be “big countries” as well, and we are discussing this topic regularly, but this does not put the whole rule into question.”
It’s clear from this that Dr Freiling has only used Russia and Turkey just as examples of recent Eurovision participant countries with large populations.
His point: yes, there are other European countries with large populations, but this doesn’t mean they will become automatic qualifiers.
While it seems that the Reference Group has discussed membership criteria for the automatic qualifiers group, there is no suggestions from Dr Freiling’s chat that any actual changes are going to take place.
It is also worth noting that Turkey has not competed in Eurovision since 2012. Broadcaster TRT has previously complained about acts like Conchita Wurst and the jury/televote split and shows no signs of wanting to return to Eurovision.
Most importantly, the EBU has not issued any confirmation about changes to the automatic qualifiers.
History of the Big Five at Eurovision
Automatic qualifiers were introduced in 2000 with the “Big Four”. France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom were given automatic entry into the contest and did not face the same relegation system as other countries. Italy was not a regular participant at the time.
In 2004, the relegation rules were dropped and the semi-final system was introduced. The Big Four were then guaranteed a place in the grand final and did not have to compete in a semi-final. As well as the Big Four, the host country was also guaranteed a place in the grand final.
When Italy returned to the contest in 2011, they also joined the list of automatic qualifiers, making it the Big Five. Since 2011, the official Eurovision rules have also had a provision for the EBU to change the number of guaranteed placing in the grand final.
In 2015, the Big Five temporarily became the Big Six. Australian broadcaster SBS paid a special fee to ensure that the act from down under would debut in the grand final. However, since then Australia has face the semi-finals like most other acts.
Being part of the Big Five isn’t always considered a good thing. Some have noted that performing in the semi-finals gives performers extra experience and the song gets more exposure. It also gives broadcasters incentive to enter a high quality song that will qualify for the grand final.
Populations of the ten largest current Eurovision participant countries
Russia is the only country with a larger population than the Big Five to not be an automatic qualifier. However, since Russia’s debut in 1994, they have only missed the grand final twice.
- Russia – 146,877,088
- Germany – 83,000,000
- France – 66,992,000
- United Kingdom – 66,040,229
- Italy – 60,395,921
- Spain – 46,733,038
- Ukraine – 42,177,579
- Poland (38,433,600)
- Australia (25,235,700)
- Romania (19,523,621)
In addition to the current Eurovision participants, these EBU member countries also have large populations: Egypt (98,213,500), Turkey (80,810,525), Algeria (43,378,027), Morocco (34,915,300).
What do you think? Would you like the Big Five to be expanded? Or should Eurovision have no automatic qualifiers? Share your thoughts below!