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.

  1. Russia – 146,877,088
  2. Germany – 83,000,000
  3. France – 66,992,000
  4. United Kingdom – 66,040,229
  5. Italy – 60,395,921
  6. Spain – 46,733,038
  7. Ukraine – 42,177,579
  8. Poland (38,433,600)
  9. Australia (25,235,700)
  10. 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!

Read more Eurovision news here

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ESC2004
ESC2004
1 year ago

As a Turkish I think we shouldn’t join Big 7. Turkey doesn’t compete in Eurovision because of jury system and Big 5 so it will be definitely a strange thing if we join Big 5. And I do not think that TRT will accept it. Anyway Big 5 rule isn’t fair but otherwise we don not have another choice. If Big 5 disappear countries will stop pay money for contest and we will watch an awful show. ESC should do something about Jury Voting. Just look Poland 2016 the song was great and it got 222 points by televoting but… Read more »

Tobias Henrik Andersen
Tobias Henrik Andersen
1 year ago

I think the BIG 5 rule is damaging the countries that are part of big 5. Many will not vote for them. Also I personally already get Favorites in the semi finals and it is hard to change opinion in final. Maybe a more subtle rule could be that the big 5 can choose their starting position (everyone else like today) but big 5 countries can choose starting position in semi finals to make it more likely to qualify. Without big 5 there will be 12 countries qualifying from each semi final. If you cannot be in top 12 choosing… Read more »

oli
oli
1 year ago

I wouldn’t mind if the Big 5 disappeared, but hey, let’s be fair, if so, they should pay the same fee as the rest of the countries. Fair is fair.

Esc
Esc
1 year ago

The big 5 should dissaper.. Or even competing between them with less spots in the grand finale,, UK, Spain need to work hard and take it seriously..

Max
Max
1 year ago
Reply to  Esc

So you want that the whole ESC disappears.

Pablo45
Pablo45
1 year ago

Russia, sweden, ukraine, turkey are the most successfull countries in Eurovision so i am Ok with big7 joining Turkey anda Russia

Gaet
Gaet
1 year ago
Reply to  Pablo45

Sweden i get it. But Russia and Turkey only won 1 time. So i don’t agree with you. Countries like Denmark and Norway are more succesfull than Russia or Turkey. Ok they won before the 1990’s but they are better in terms of victory

Ali
Ali
1 year ago

I disagree with “big five” or “big seven”.. Isn’t fair for the others contests.. Everyone, in my opinion, should pass by semi-finals. Is not fair for the others..

Simon
Simon
1 year ago

Put it down to the number of viewers rather than the population of the country.

Polegend Godgarina
1 year ago

Remove Spain from the big 5 and substitute it with Russia. We need an an automatic finalist who takes the contest seriously. As for Turkey, they can stay doing their ever-canceled Turkvizyon if they can’t accept progress.

Stevan
Stevan
1 year ago

Turkey joining the aq’s would be hypocritical since that’s what they stated is one of the reasons why they left

Charles
Charles
1 year ago

Had the EBU offered Turkey the chance to be part of an alleged Big 7 or Big Whatever … they would be running back like a dog eager to play with the brand new found bone. Hypocritical but since Eurovision has lost so much of it musical content being outshone by everything else specially backstage smelly laudry and political soap operas, none of this would or could be surprising. Unless one is living under a rock or way to focused on Lady Gaga’s movie … And don’t me started of how Mother Russia would feel had they been given the… Read more »

Rasmus
Rasmus
1 year ago

NOT TURKEY. If they put Turkey there then they will think they have won over EBU. No thank you. Turkey only wants televoting also.

Bahog Bilal Hassani
Bahog Bilal Hassani
1 year ago

Turkey doesn’t even go here
https://m.imgur.com/t/mean_girls/GaMJX

SoldierOfLove
SoldierOfLove
1 year ago

Unlike the UK, Russia doesn’t need to buy their way into the final, they can get in on pure talent. ?

OrangeVorty
OrangeVorty
1 year ago
Reply to  SoldierOfLove

If you read the article properly, the UK doesn’t buy their way into the final the size of the televoting public gets them the spot. What they do with that spot is an entirely different matter… (waste it most years in my opinion).

Joe
Joe
1 year ago

Ah screw it. I tried posting about this but I mentioned another site (the one in the article, in fact) so I’ll have to post again: according to that site, the good doctor here is organizing that Eurovision convention I mentioned before. How come people aren’t talking more about that? Especially with the live orchestra aspect it feels like a big deal.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Mr. Vanilla Bean
1 year ago

I am wondering though if the majority of let’s say the UK audience would care that much if their song made it to the final. Personally, I don’t want my country to be represented in the final if our entry doesn’t deserve it.

Jack
Jack
1 year ago

I am so done with the eurofandom, so much fake drama over made up rumours just to spread attention, there is no way Turkey would come back and automatically become a Big member when they cited the Big 5 as a reason for withdrawing which was absolutely pathetic, I’m sure Russia are fine going through the semifinals as well and now knows nothing is guaranteed and they have to step up after failing to qualify first time last year.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack

It’s not fake the ebu said themselves they would consider adding Russia and turkey which would be a good idea imo

Skiwalko
Skiwalko
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack

Well, things are changing in TRT, and Italy just did so after 13 years of absence.

PP77
PP77
1 year ago

Without BIG 5 participation fee for Eurovision will be much higher for other EBU countries who are.want to participate in contest.

Paul
Paul
1 year ago
Reply to  PP77

How much is the basic fee for non big 5?

Lloyd
Lloyd
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

It depends on the country. I think they base it on population and the typical fees of the broadcaster or something along those lines. It’s not one set fee of say €100,000 for every country.

Aaron
Aaron
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

As far as I am aware the fee changes depending on the country themselves

Marcus (Day One)
Marcus (Day One)
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

I believe it’s around 300,000 euros because I remember a while back the UK was said to have spent around £230,000 for a participation fee when they were saying it was good value for around 9 hours or prime time TV.

hebbuzz
hebbuzz
1 year ago

The big five need some incentive though to deliver. Actually Italy constantly ranks well. UK Spain Germany are generally underwhelming, exceptions taken. I’d say add another rule that after 3 times ranking lower than for example 18th leads to qualify through semis the next year.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago
Reply to  hebbuzz

you cant blame being in the big 5 as a reason for lack of good results. 2 of the big 5 were in the top 5 last year

Joshua
Joshua
1 year ago
Reply to  hebbuzz

Italy is the only country that doesn’t take the contest seriously and yet manages to get really good results. It’s just a shame they don’t care about it.

John
1 year ago

It’s a difficult one because I think the Big Five do get a lot of slack for not taking the contest seriously enough or sending weak entries – but then if they were constantly winning there would be criticism that it’s too easy for them and gives them a unfair advantage.
To me the current system is a nice balance – it’s not perfect, but it works.

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Mr. Vanilla Bean
1 year ago

Well, it sort of makes sense as the Big Five are the big core European countries who rule Europe. Increasing the number of automatic qualifiers would be a big mistake, in my opinion. Where does it end? I think 26 countries competing in the final should be the limit. The 27 in 2015 were already one too much, in my opinion.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago

if the big 7 is introduced they might have to cut the qualifiers from 10 to 9 🙁

Mr. Vanilla Bean
Mr. Vanilla Bean
1 year ago
Reply to  Ani

Totally can’t wrap my head around that. 10 is an even number, it’s the perfect amount for semi final qualifiers.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago

But then you would have 28 songs in final 0.0

Lloyd
Lloyd
1 year ago

Going to the point of more exposure for those that perform in the semi finals. I have thought this for a long while and believe the voting countries of that semi final perform after all the songs. That way, it’s more exposure to live audience at home which allows a fairer opportunity.

Azuro
Azuro
1 year ago
Reply to  Lloyd

Exactly they show a minute in the live show and add the rehearsal videos to youtube as though they were in the semi, ie they are titled United Kingdom – Semi FInal 2 etc
So why not have them actually perform instead of semi final interval acts, or in addition to interval acts if you insist (would only take an extra 6 minutes (already do 1 minute of each, so would be an additional 2 minutes of each)

Lloyd
Lloyd
1 year ago
Reply to  Azuro

The interval acts don’t need to be there. I get the host country wants to show their culture but if they struggle financially (I.e. Portugal) they can save some money on the acts. I assume the big five and host country perform as if in the show during the semi final so may as well do it that way.

Azuro
Azuro
1 year ago
Reply to  Lloyd

.

Sabrina
Sabrina
1 year ago
Reply to  Lloyd

I agree. It would be much better for them to show their whole song and performance than to show a clip and have a small talk that’s always very forgettable.

Ani
Ani
1 year ago

Nobody said it won’t happen so the title is incorrect. I never understood why Russia weren’t apart of the big 5 with their huge pop and if it gets turkey back im all for it . It was also said that they are considering it so to say that it’s completely not true is completely false.

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
1 year ago
Reply to  Ani

Maybe add “in 2020” to the headline?

Ani
Ani
1 year ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

the title should have said they wont join the big 5 in 2019 which is true. I think trt are eyeing a return since someome from trt was elected as board of someting at the ebu and he attended the meeting at the ebu for the first time in years. Plus Erodgan publicly stated he regrets not involving turkey in more cultural and music events.

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
1 year ago

Thank you Robyn, for this article. It does help to explain a lot about the inner workings of the contest itself.
On a complete tangent to this: Wasn’t “Eurovision Asia” supposed to be a big thing this year? And, weren’t Australia (and possibly Russia) going to be joining the other contest? That obviously hasn’t happened (yet), but the impact will no doubt be felt one way or the other.

James
James
1 year ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

Eurovision Asia has proven difficult to get off the ground but it is still in the development process with no real movement at the moment. However, recently leaked documents last year revealed that there were plans to have the Gold Coast host and a government official spoke about it in detail but I don’t think it’s legit official unless it’s coming from the organizers themselves.

Azuro
Azuro
1 year ago

The Big 5 isn’t based on audience figures or televotes, its based on participation fee.
The Big 5 are the 5 largest economies so pay the 5 biggest fees, and this buys them a place in the final without having to qualify.

Purple Mask
Purple Mask
1 year ago
Reply to  Azuro

Yes, this is indeed the principal reason why the countries are called the “Big Five” in the first place. However, it is clear that Dr. Freiling was discussing a different aspect, as he stated: “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… Read more »

hebbuzz
hebbuzz
1 year ago
Reply to  Purple Mask

If you have large viewing figures it still doesn’t mean autoqualification is logical. Large viewing figures in sports mean larger fees too.

Fabii99
Fabii99
1 year ago
Reply to  hebbuzz

So let us suppose a BIG 5 country pays 250.000€ participation fee and has a viewing figure of 10 million people. The EBU needs the money so that countries still want to host; otherwise, less countries would even be able to host. If now a BIG 5 country does not get past the semi finals for a few years and therefore the viewing figures will decrease to about 3 million people the BIG 5 country will wthdraw because for the money they pay it is economically not efficient any more. So the EBU loses 250.000€ if more countries will withdram… Read more »

James
James
1 year ago

The EBU used a audio-only semifinal, before going for the relegation system that was set in place shortly soon after. It was short-sighted on their part as many of those who didn’t make the cut to be part of the televised final took the time and effort to select their songs and artists, only for all that to be thrown away.

Jonas
Jonas
1 year ago
Reply to  James

Yes, but all of the countries were aware of that possibility before they picked their songs. In theory, it could have acted as motivation to pick a really great one. All of the chosen artists were aware of the risk beforehand, so it was always at the back of their minds that they might not make the final.

Skiwalko
Skiwalko
1 year ago

Yeah it irritates me every time – Germany participated in every contest but one – it’s like a crack on a beautiful painting.

Pandaman
Pandaman
1 year ago

I think that adding more countries to the Big Group would just discourage smaller countries from participating, like it’s happened to Slovakia, Andorra or Monaco, for example, since it would be even more difficult for them to qualify.

Skiwalko
Skiwalko
1 year ago
Reply to  Pandaman

Why? There would be less countries in the semi-finals then.

Jo.
Jo.
1 year ago
Reply to  Skiwalko

Competition increases quality. SF1 in Lisbon was a fine example of that.

Rasmus
Rasmus
1 year ago
Reply to  Skiwalko

there are only allowed 20 in one semifinal. EBU rules

Jo.
Jo.
1 year ago

Without the Big 5, more countries would withdraw due to financial problems, that’s the truth. That being said, I do agree that some of those five countries should put more effort in their entries, since flopping also means smaller viewing figures.

Azuro
Azuro
1 year ago
Reply to  Jo.

Exactly, it was the addition of Australia who also pay a “Big” fee, that paved the way for Croatia, Bosnia and Bulgaria to all return. Bosnia and Bulgaria have since dropped out again but the removal of Australia as some Euro-nationalists seem to advocate would likely see Croatia, Romania, and Macedonia all forced out as well.

Frisian esc
Frisian esc
1 year ago
Reply to  Azuro

Where did you get the idea that Australia pays the eurovision fees for all smaller eastern european countries? That’s a pretty bold statement without any evidence to back it up. Australia doesn’t even pay extra to go directly to the grand final anymore.

Ann
Ann
1 year ago
Reply to  Azuro

“Euro-nationalists”?! Some people just think that only european countries should take part in EUROvision, because of the contest’s name. Not because they don’t like Australia and think Europe is the best O.o

Roelof Meesters
Roelof Meesters
1 year ago

I think the Big- Five system works good enough as it is, it is a vital part of the contest and it’s important that these countries who pay more money are given a spot in the final.