Airdate: The Secret History of Eurovision

To get you into the mood for Eurovision, SBS will screen a 2 part doco, The Secret History of Eurovision.

This is a co-production between WA’s Electric Pictures and Brook Lapping Productions (UK), made with the backing of SBS, Channel 4, RTE, WDR, NPS, DR, SVT, YLE, NRK, VRT, Screen Australia and ScreenWest.

This airs Friday 6th and Friday 13th May, 7.30pm on SBS ONE.

A decade after the end of the Second World War, Marcel Besançon, a Frenchman working for the European Broadcasting Union, had a daring idea. He wanted to stage a live pan-European singing competition to promote the nascent television services of Western Europe and bring the divided nations of a war-torn Europe closer together in a celebration of music. He called it the ‘Eurovision Grand Prix’ and it took place in Lugano, Switzerland, on 24th May 1956. Just seven countries took part. It was an instant hit and
became an unbroken annual fixture.

Today, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the most-watched broadcast events in the world, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers around the world. The Secret History of Eurovision is a smart and fast-paced account of a great European institution. This two-part mini series is packed with classic pop, backstage intrigues, misbehaving auto-cues and some truly astonishing flared trousers. But more than that, it will peer beyond the glitz and sparkle to examine the Eurovision Song Contest and how it has tracked – and at times even influenced – the changing social and political life of Europe. It features new and exclusive interviews with some of the Eurovision greats (and the not so greats!) including Bucks Fizz, Jonny Logan and last year’s winner Lena, as well as the very first Eurovision Song Contest winner from 1956, Lys Assia.

Writer/Director Steve Oliver says: “Most people think of Eurovision as a fun night of TV once a year, but while making this film I discovered it really is so much more than that. It has helped topple dictatorships, end the repression of homosexuality, and push forward amazing new technologies all while providing unparalleled entertainment to literally millions of people for over half a century. Quite frankly, not much can beat that.”

“It’s not easy convincing people that the kitsch nonsense seen at Eurovision means
anything more serious than that, but I hope after seeing this film they might concede that
it does.”

Episode One, Friday May 6, 7.30pm
East versus West
Part one of The Secret History of Eurovision explores the early years of the Eurovision Song Contest from its origins in 1956 as a way to unite war torn nations and showcase new technology, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. As the Cold War took hold, Eurovision came to symbolise both the freedom of the West and the cultural representation in the East. As the West started winning the Cold War, Eurovision began
to blossom into the biggest entertainment show in the world.

Episode Two, Friday May 13, 7.30pm
The Embrace of New Europe
Part two of The Secret History of Eurovision is the story of Eurovision from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to the present day. In a few short years, Europe changed forever. New nations emerged clamouring to join the Eurovision Song Contest, desperate to establish their own identity. Dramatic revolutions coincided and fed off what had become the biggest entertainment show on the planet.

David Knox blogs Eurovision at


  1. Eurovision is great fun as long as the dire SBS version can be avoided. Thankfully the BBC coverage with Graham Norton as a worthy successor to the great Sir Terry is readily accessible so we no longer have to take what SBS deems we should have.

  2. This should be fairly amusing/interesting. Eurovision (when the viewer is well lubricated) can be a hoot to watch with a group of friends. I do miss that cheerfully misogynistic and patriotically one-eyed Brit commentator – was it Terry Wogan or Logan or something like that? Hope he gets interviewed.
    And some of my happier dreams as an adolescent boy were about the girls in Bucks Fizz – can’t wait to see how they’ve matured. Or maybe I should!

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