K7 Media

K7 Media

The Cowell Factor

The X Factor. I hear those words and I feel a little buzz inside. Ever since talent shows surfaced in the UK with the likes of Popstars and Pop Idol I associate the all-singing extravaganzas with warm nostalgia.

Girly nights in with wine and fondu, campaign badge making in physics lessons (with the teacher’s permission of course) and tantrums after heated debate on our favourite acts. Watching these shows has always been an event. I still get a phone call from my mum every Monday to discuss our thoughts on the weekend’s results. However conversations are increasingly resembling “Weren’t the acts awful? What was she wearing? Why do we still watch it?!” Like one of thousands, I’ve vowed on Twitter to boycott on several occasions.

Arguably this year’s X Factor has had the most controversy in its seven year history. The show is now affectionately known as “The Fix Factor”, judge feuds are still dominating celebrity tabloids and eliminated acts just keep clawing their way back into the competition thanks to misbehavers. This series has also come under huge scrutiny for its supposed ratings slump. Audience figures were down by 3.5 million on last year’s final, but isn’t the media industry now saying ratings aren’t important? We now rely so much on catch-up services and online viewing that live viewing is no longer a sole measurement of success.

Similar concerns have previously been raised over Cowell’s other global creation, Got Talent.

Next year the mogul will be returning to the revamped UK judging panel having previously sacrificed his chair for commitments in the US. His return will inevitably satisfy the British public, but is the success of shows like The X Factor and Got Talent completely dependent on his televised presence? When The X Factor was taken stateside we took part in months of speculation over the UK and US judging panel before either show had even launched. Perhaps Cowell is cunning enough to stimulate world discussion, or maybe the strength of the format has combined with the tremendous power of Twitter to create ongoing hype.

No matter what the subject, the public are always scrutinising and Twitter now acts as a far greater voice of scrutiny than any other medium. As soon as a story has broken it’s trending. As soon as it’s trending it’s headline news. The fact is, everyone is still talking about it and everyone’s got an opinion. Good or bad, it’s still publicity. If the public really had given up on the show would it still attract so much attention? I know I’ll criticise, I know I’ll embrace the media circus, but I also know that next year I will watch it. And I imagine the rest of the British public just might do the same. Well we do need something to talk about…

Sophie O'Brien