The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la chanson), is also known as Eurovision or even as Eurosong (mostly in Ireland). Don't be fooled by the name, it isn't the European Song Contest, some of the countries taking part are not in Europe.
It's a televised competition between broadcasters that are members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). As of 2015, there were 73 active members in 56 countries, and 34 associate members from a further 20 countries. Most EU states are part of the EBU, but the membership also includes Russia, Azerbaijan, Israel and lots of other countries that confuse the average viewer who tunes in expecting to see near neighbours have a bit of a sing song.
Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular.
The contest has been broadcast every year since 1956, and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.
The song contest outside 'Eurovision'
The Eurovision Song Contest has also been broadcast outside Europe to several countries that do not compete, such as the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and China. An exception was made in 2015, when Australia was allowed to compete. They've been there every year since.
The first contest was held in the town of Lugano, Switzerland, on 24 May 1956. Seven countries participated—each submitting two songs, for a total of 14. This was the only contest in which more than one song per country was performed: since 1957, all contests have allowed one entry per country. The 1956 contest was won by the host nation, Switzerland.
Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins, having won the contest seven times.