As of the contest in Stockholm in 2016, the official rules are as follows. The official source for this is on Eurovision.tv here:
- A maximum of 46 Active EBU Members shall be allowed to participate.
- A maximum of 26 of those delegates must participate in the final, with 6 spaces reserved for the host country and the members of the Big Five. If a Big Five member wins or withdraws (see 2011 as an example), the final of the following year's contest will have 25 delegates.
- At the Vienna 2015 contest, there were 27 participants in the Grand Final as of Australia automatically qualifying due to being a guest country. This was done to allow the remaining countries still in the semifinals a fair and equal opportunity to qualify.
- The contest has two semi-finals and one final. The semi-finals are usually on a Tuesday and a Thursday, and the grand final on a Saturday.
- Viewers of the contest that are watching under a participating broadcaster can vote for their favourite songs through televoting or via the official app, providing there aren't issues with either.
- A Jury must be appointed by the broadcaster to vote in the semi-finals and the final. It will consist of five members from the music industry (singer, DJ, composer, lyricist or producer) and must have a fair balance of age, gender, and profession.
- Jurors cannot be employees of their national broadcasters, and cannot have any connection to the songs and/or artists in order to uphold complete independence and impartiality.
- Jury members shall not have been a part of a national jury in the preceding two years. Meaning, for example, if someone served on a jury for the 2015 contest, they cannot do so for the 2016 or 2017 events.
- The song with the highest number of televotes will be ranked first in the televoting situation, and so on.
- Televoters are only allowed 20 televotes per phone in a show, during the time allowed to vote. The 20 televotes are reinstated for the Grand Final, so viewers can vote again. (40 phone calls if the viewer uses their maximum televotes in both shows where their country is allowed to televote)
- Televoting for your own country will not count and the voter will still be charged, unless the voter is in a foreign phone network area. A warning message or a message of encouragement to the artist will replace the phone number during your own country's turn in the recap.
- Jury members are to rank their favorite song first and so on until the last song. Abstentions (not voting) are forbidden, except that the song of the participating broadcaster will be excluded from the vote. (For example, an Estonian Jury member is not allowed to vote for Estonia)
- In all three shows, there is a 50/50 televote/jury combination to determine the overall winner of both sides.
- The compositions (both the lyrics and the music) must not have been released commercially prior to 1 September prior to the next contest. In case the song has been released through means of social media, video platforms or to the public in general, the broadcaster must inform the Executive Supervisor to check for eligibility.
- The maximum duration of every song is three minutes.
- All songs must be confirmed and submitted to the EBU prior to the Head of Delegation meetings in March in the year of the contest and should include an instrumental backing track for use during performances, as well as staging plans, a full studio version of the song for use on the official compilation album and any promotional materials including an official video for distribution on social media including the Eurovision YouTube channel.
- The maximum number of people on stage (including backing dancers, instrument players and singers) is 6 as of the 1971 contest.
- Live animals are forbidden on stage, but puppets may be brought on (see Dustin the Turkey.)
- As of 1990, all artists competing in a semifinal or only in the final must be at least 16 years of age on the night of the Semi Final or Grand Final. This includes backing vocalists, musicians and dancers.
- No artist may compete for two countries at once.
- As of 1999 (and previously from 1973 to 1976), the broadcaster is free to choose the language(s) the song will be performed in.
- All vocals whether lead or backing must be sung live, accompanied by a backing track containing no vocals of any kind (except for whistling, see Sebalter's performance) or vocal imitations (however, an exception was made by the EBU for Jowst in 2017). Backing singers can either be featured on stage or off, depending on the nature of the performance. For the 2021 contest, the EBU conducted an experimental trial of using pre-recorded backing vocals.
- The lyrics and/or performances should not bring the Eurovision Song Contest, the Shows and the EBU into disrepute. No lyrics, speeches or gestures are to be made during the time.
- Unacceptable language is not allowed in the lyrics or in the performances of the songs.
- No messages promoting any organisations, political/religious causes, institutions companies/brands/services/products etc. should be allowed in the Shows or on any Official Premises (i.e., the venue, Press Centre, Eurovision Village..).
There are many other rules such as the exposure of nudity on stage (whilst revealing clothing is allowed), jury corruption/fixed voting (however diaspora voting is allowed), televote corruption, and specific rules regarding Official Premises.
Disqualification, fines, deduction of points, loss of accreditation, sanctions, or an official EBU warning may happen in breach of some of the above rules.
Contestants that broke these rules
- Doris Dragović - Used electronic voices in her backing track for Marija Magdalena in 1999. A third of the entry's points were docked as a result.
- Silvia Night - Used foul language in the studio version of her song Congratulations in 2006.
- Nina Morato - Used foul language both live and in the studio of Je suis un vrai garçon in 1994. She and the French delegation were not punished in any way.
- Serebro - Used foul language in Song #1 in 2007.
- Iveta Mukuchyan - Displayed the flag of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Armenia on camera during a voting recap of the first semifinal in 2016, violating the rule against political statements. The Armenian broadcaster was officially sanctioned by the EBU and the incident was censored on the official contest DVD.
- Hatari - Displayed Palestinian flag scarves on camera as they were receiving their televote score during the grand final of 2019, violating the rule against political statements. It was revealed the stunt was pre-planned, and as a result the EBU fined Icelandic broadcaster RÚV €5000. The reaction shot was replaced with the 2019 star logo and an Icelandic flag on the official DVD.