Stripper Act Sparks Media Regulator Probe into Simon Cowell's Talent Show
LONDON -- A burlesque stripper and a problematic smart phone voting app lit up the complaints switchboard at media regulator Ofcom after commercial web ITV broadcast Britain's Got Talent earlier this year.
The media watchdog said Monday it received 90 complaints after Beatrix Von Bourbon's audition and subsequent live semi-final was broadcast during prime time on the commercial web.
The show's judges, including Simon Cowell, put her through to the live show stage of the variety act talent contest.
The show aims to find an "unknown star" from the general public to perform at the annual Royal Variety Performance.
Her two-minute audition act, deemed too raunchy by 75 complainants for the time it was broadcast, saw her remove her skirt, jacket and bra (underneath she wore nipple tassels and her breasts were masked with an on-screen graphic), leaving her wearing a corset, knickers, stockings and shoes to the sound of “Feeling Good” by the band Muse.
In the semi-final, which received 15 complaints, she varied the Burlesque act, ending up with her back turned to the audience before removing her bra before two assistants concealed her breasts with large ostrich feather fans to the sound of Peggy Lee's "Fever".
To hear the judges comments, she was handed a large, knee-length fur wrap to wear which covered her torso and thighs also.
The audition act aired March 31 at around 2025 with repeat broadcasts of the web's flagship channel ITV1 on April 1 at 1300, ITV 2 on April 1 at 1900 and then ITV 2 on April 6 at 1900. The majority of complaints received by Ofcom concerned the initial broadcast on March 31, the regulator said.
For the second edition, her live semi-final broadcast hit homes on May 9 around an hour after the program's 1930 start.
Ofcom looked long and hard into the public concerns about timings and broadcast rules but found ITV was not in breach of rules that aim to make sure “persons under the age of eighteen are protected” from overtly sexualized imagery and so deemed unsuitable.
It noted in its decision that the act and partial nudity "were appropriately limited and brief in duration, and the act as a whole would not have exceeded the audience’s likely expectations for a program of this nature on this channel."
But ITV's move to introduce a downloadable smart phone application to vote on the merits of the acts including Von Bourbon and her tassels also sparked an Ofcom investigation.
For the 2012 series, one way that viewers could vote was via a downloadable smart phone application. Users of the application could purchase three votes for £1.49 ($2.33) for use during any voting period in the series.
The first voting period began in the first of six semi-finals broadcast on 6 May 2012.
But one viewer alerted Ofcom to a technical problem with the application, which saw an error message being sent when attempting to exercise the vote.
Ofcom's code of conduct states: “Broadcasters must ensure that viewers are not materially misled about any broadcast competition or voting.”
ITV explained that when voting opened, the application’s display changed from a Britain’s Got Talent-style buzzer to a voting selection screen and this led to a significant increase in connection requests.
The platform’s firewall – provided by a third party -- was not able to process the high volume of interactions that occurred directly after voting lines opened.
The broadcaster moved swiftly to discontinue the app for the rest of the series and refund those who had purchased unused votes.
In stamping the issue resolved with ITV, the media regulator noted the broadcaster's swift actions and also pointed to the fact that "audience voting via smart phone applications is a relatively new concept and that the various testing phases undertaken by ITV or its contractors did not reveal any capacity issues."
This year's season was won by Pudsey the dog.