X-factor accused on Sony bias

January 2012


Warner Music has submitted a formal complaint to UK media regulator OfCom claiming that ‘X-Factor’ producers had unfairly prioritised artists signed to Sony Music labels or its highly viewed final shows. The shows featured four Sony acts – Leona Lewis, One Director and JLS (all former contestants) and Westlife, formerly managed by Judge Louis Walsh and another Sony act. Two artistes from other major labels appeared – Coldplay (EMI) and Michael Buble (Warners). Particular anger is directed at lewis who has no current album to promote, although she is a previous winner of the show.  Sony owns half of Simon Cowell’s Syco company, one of the producers of contest.

With slots for new pop and rock music on TV in serious decline, X-factor remains an important platform for existing acts.  With the demise of programmes such as Top of the Pops and CD:UK (Top of the Pops is now just a Christmas special)  coverage is now restricted to later night slots such as Later with Jools on BBC2, festival coverage such as Glastonbury and the Radio Big Weekend, along with occasional Channel 4 and ITV specials (who broadcast a Beyonce special) and chat show special appearances.

Warner’s complaint is against ITV, the actual OfCom licence holder here, and it has accused the commercial channel of failing to exercise proper editorial control over the talent show. The Guardian suggested that Universal Music may also submit a complaint, though given three of the current ‘X-Factor’ judges (Gary Barlow from Take That, Tulisa from NDubz and former Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland) are signed to Universal, this seems a tad harsh!

Syco and ITV have already disputed Warner’s claims, pointing out that over the whole series Universal artists had the most exposure on the show this year, that most of the Sony acts to appear are editorially relevant former ‘X’ contestants, and that both Warner and EMI had three acts each on the programme, including one each on the final weekend.

The all-girl group Little Mix (previously Rythmix and famous on these pages for an ill advised but now settled Trade Mark spat with the charity of the same name) won the competition and subsequently managed one week at number one with a version of Cannonball.

This year’s 2012 Christmas TOTP Special featured a range of artistes from different genres – and different labels (!) although only two independent labels featured in the mix – and just one each from Warners and EMI. The acts featured with label/parent label were: Adele (XL), Example (Data/Ministry of Sound), Pixie Lott (Mercury/Universal), Rizzle Kicks (Island/Universal), Ed Sheeran (Atlantic/Warners), The Wanted (Geffen/Universal), Will Young (SonyBMG), Professor Green, (Virgin/EMI), Olly Murs (Syco/Sony), Noah & The Whale  (Mercury/Universal),The Vaccines (Columbia/Sony), anticipated number 1 Little Mix (Syco/Sony) and actual Christmas number one the Military Wives (Decca / Universal)


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