'X Factor' U.K. Auditions Spark Ofcom Investigations

"X Factor" guru Simon Cowell.
"X Factor" guru Simon Cowell.
 

LONDON – U.K. media watchdog is mulling whether or not performances of a Lady Gaga song and a Britney Spears impersonator on Simon Cowell's The X-Factor may have breached its broadcasting code.

The media regulator is launching an investigation into a heavily criticized rendition of Lady Gaga's hit The Edge of Glory by contestant Alison Brunton.

But the investigation is not so much about Brunton but about her two teenage children who watched their mother's performances from the side of the stage.

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Brunton told the X Factor judges and the TV viewers alike that she sounded like Madonna before launching into her rendition of the song on the episode that aired Sept. 1.

The show's cameras repeatedly cut to her children -- a 14-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy – appearing horrified and humiliated by their mother's level of performance.

Ofcom received 35 complaints about the impact of the audition on her children, enough for the regulator to launch an investigation into rules relating to under-18-year-olds' TV appearances.

According to section 1 of the Ofcom broadcasting code, the commercial broadcaster ITV has a responsibility to take "due care of the physical and emotional welfare and dignity of people under 18 who take part or are otherwise involved in programs."

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Even with consent from Brunton as a parent, ITV still carries the responsibility to protect children from "unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programs or by the broadcast of those programs."

One judge, former Spice Girls member and solo artist Mel B, described Brunton's audition as "horrific."

A spokeswoman for ITV told The Guardian: "The X Factor does not include child contestants but takes the welfare of any children featured in the show very seriously. It is a well-established format and contestants regularly bring along their family to support them as Alison did. Footage of family members is only used when appropriate consent has been obtained."

Ofcom also plans to mount an investigation following audience complaints to an audition by Spears impersonator Lorna Bliss which was broadcast before the 9 p.m. watershed – the time set for adult content to be allowed -- on Sept. 9.

Bliss performed Spears' "Till the World Ends" in a white fishnet body stocking, a neon lime green g-string and bra.

During her audition, the top half of her body stocking fell down and she straddled judge Louis Walsh at his desk.

Ofcom took receipt of 34 complaints and has launched an investigation on the grounds of taste and decency and the scheduling of the audition.

ITV said the performance and its editing had been "carefully considered by the producers and ITV," according to the Guardian.

"We do not believe her routine exceeded generally accepted standards or the expectations of the vast majority of the audience," a spokesperson said.

It is not the first time a Cowell talent show has found itself in the spotlight with Ofcom.

In July this year, Ofcom received 90 complaints after burlesque act Beatrix Von Bourbon's audition and subsequent live semi-final was broadcast during primetime via the web.

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