In 2000 a new rule was implemented giving the highest financial contributors of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a guaranteed spot in the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. At that time they were called the “Big Four”. Prior to the introduction of the Semi Final system in 2004, the EBU used a relegation system to determine which countries would take part and which would have to sit out for a year. France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom were exempt due to their status and were able to take part regardless of their ranking. Nowadays theses countries do not have to compete in the Semi Finals unlike the rest of the participating nations.
Italy returned in 2011 after a 14 year long break joining the countries mentioned above and they became the “Big Five”.

However, this rule has been somewhat controversial and unpopular among some Eurovision fans. Our members at have been discussing the issue in detail and Gera11 said: “I find this big5 rule quite discriminatory. It’s like “who has money, has more rights”. What happened with equal rights?” 
She doesn’t seem to be the only one who feels that way. Turkey withrew from the contest in 2013 citing the Big 5 rule as one of the main reasons.

So the question is, should money rule the contest? Hunty73 made a valid point when he advised that “The big 5 isn’t ideal but without it ESC would only be open to rich,big countries as the smaller ones couldn’t afford the massive increase in fees.”
That raises the question, what would happen if the EBU abolishes the Big Five rule? Would the financial impact on the smaller countries be as significant as mentioned by Hunty? The economic situation in many European countries is far from optimal so making the contest more costly than it already is, could become a major hurdle for those broadcasters.

lena germany 2010 satellite
Since the introduction of the Big 4/5, Germany is the only country from that bunch to win the contest when Lena ended up at the Top in 2010 with “Satellite”

Some members believe that money is just a lame excuse, LalehForWD argued that “the total EBU contribution to ESC is peanuts. The big 5 rule is just a reward to the most powerful broadcasters in EBU.” A quick recap of the Funding for the contest in Malmo was posted by the same individual HERE .

Member Pengiunperson added to that thought suggesting that it goes beyond the hosting duties “The money involved rarely has an impact with the host broadcaster as they can set their budget to whatever they want. Yet there still needs to be an official body that needs to be paid for and obviously everyone pays towards that. As I said elsewhere, no advertiser will want the lucrative markets to have ratings collapses it is how broadcasting works. If the Big 5 countries did not exist with who they are now the advertisers would still want certain audiences where they could have a strong guaranted reach. This won’t be through adverts in traditional terms but consuming social media. The Nordics would easily be included in this scenario.” This member finalized their thought by saying “It is not fair we all know this but broadcasters don’t work on fairness they work on principles of making money.”.

There is more to the Big 5 than the financial aspect, at least according to some of our members. PeterLPZ pointed out that without the big countries, the viewership would be down significantly. “I can remember in 1996, when Germany wasn´t at ESC, the TV ratings for ESC were about 600.000 people – not much in a country with a population about 80 millions. I think, after this, the EBU decided to create the BIG5 rules, because of the TV ratings overall in Europe. In Germany there are normally near 10 millions viewers with ESC. I don´t know how it is in UK, France, Spain or Italy, but if all these countries wouldn´t be in the final, perhaps about 20 – 25 millions viewers would be missing. It sounds much better for EBU if they can say, we have 120 millions of viewers instead of 95 millions around Europe.”

A reason why the Big Five status actually can hurt a country was pointed out by ShineShineShine: “Spain, U.K. and France are all Big 5 countries yet they continue to send what most people would consider weak entries. If they had to go through the Semis just like any other country, maybe they will try harder?!?!?”. Several members also pointed out that having the ability to perform in the Semis will increase a song’s odds to do better in the Finals as a lot of people are already familiar with it possibly even have gotten attached to one or several entries.

United Kingdom Josh 2010 uk
Josh Dubovie finished last in 2010. Would the U.K. even made the Finals if it wasn’t for their Big 5 status?

Not everybody is against the Big 5 status though. Member myheartisyours even suggested to make it even bigger: “Id like Russia to join us to make a Big 6”. In the past that country has voiced its desire to obtain the BIG status.

Whether or not the Big 5 will grow, shrink or ceased to exist remains to be seen but we would like to hear from you. Based on some of the arguments presented by our members, do you think the Big 5 should stay or disappear?


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  1. Zack

    August 22, 2013 at 22:41

    I’d be down with a lower budget Eurovision with the Big 5 being forced to compete in the Semis.

  2. Roy van der Merwe

    August 21, 2013 at 20:49

    Some member did point out GERMANY 1996. Unfortunately money is a fact of life whether we want it or not. Maybe the two semi finals could be split – semi final 1 could be for those with big pockets – and 12 goed to the final. semi final 2 for those with little money and just 8 goes to the final, so they save also cost in arriving later in the host city.

  3. Hasso G

    August 21, 2013 at 19:51

    Interesting article, I don’t have a strong opinon but I voted to keep the Big 5. Afterall without them there would be no Eurovision!

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