The Y Factor

Sunday, September 20, 2009 by

What’s Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Culture Secretary, discussing here?

“This is the latest ridiculous decision by the BBC – proof that something is going wrong at the broadcaster”. Is it someone swearing again, or BBC Worldwide getting too involved in commercial activities? Of course not – it’s about Strictly vs X Factor.

What a pointless dicussion this has become, but Hunt isn’t the only one who’s been lured in to commenting on it (although he’s definitely the one who should be most ashamed of himself, as you’d think he had more important things to discuss). Here comes national speaker of common sense and, it appears, Controller of ITV Simon Cowell, who under the not-at-all-melodramatic headline ‘The BBC has let Britain down’ writes in The Sun to say, “I’m happy to chair a meeting with someone from the BBC and someone from ITV and I genuinely think we can solve this within twenty minutes.” Thank God Simon’s here to sort things out. And for shame, here’s Declan Donnelly, who you’d hope would have the wit and perspective not to treat some scheduling issue as the end of the BBC, making an almighty leap of logic by suggesting, “This whole  business is sickening… the BBC are supposed to be a public service broadcaster and I don’t see much of the public service going on at the moment, which is a real shame.” That’s exactly what it is, Dec. Because Strictly has replaced Panorama and all news bulletins and… oh, hang on. No it hasn’t.

What a shame Dec has fallen for some shameless ITV spinning. It looks like the BBC is being blamed for all of this, when nobody’s pointed out that in previous weeks, The X Factor has begun at 7pm. This week, it was abruptly moved to 8pm, where the clash with Strictly has therefore become more pronounced. This is, of course, the same ITV that’s so concerned about what’s best for the viewer that it spent much of the last two years scheduling Emmerdale up against EastEnders every single week.

The Beeb have rightly pointed out that the two shows have actually gone up against each other on forty previous occasions. Sadly, because they didn’t do it last year, ITV have now been able to get away with muder because they don’t think anyone’s boring and pedantic enough to remember this, let alone go through old listings and point this out. But there’s nobody more boring and pedantic than me, so let’s take a look at some Saturday nights from 2005

Saturday 22nd October – Strictly 6.15pm, The X Factor 6.15pm

Saturday 29th October – Strictly 6.35pm, The X Factor 6.15pm

Saturday 5th November – Strictly 6.35pm, The X Factor 6.15pm

Saturday 11th November – Strictly 6.20pm, The X Factor 6.50pm

Then we can also look at 2006

Saturday 14th October – Strictly 5.50pm, The X Factor 5.50pm

Saturday 21st october – Strictly 5.45pm, The X Factor 5.45pm

Saturday 28th October – Strictly 5.40pm, The X Factor 5.45pm

Saturday 4th November – Strictly 5.45pm, The X Factor 5.45pm

And just to really hammer the point home, in 2007

Saturday 6th October – Strictly 6.15pm, The X Factor 6.45pm

Saturday 20th October – Strictly 5.45pm, The X Factor 5.45pm

Saturday 27th October – Strictly 5.45pm, The X Factor 5.45pm

Now I don’t recall a grandstanding publicity-hungry MP feeling moved to comment on any of those occasions, possibly because ITV weren’t quite so desperate for ratings and publicity and feeding the papers a load of rubbish about the Beeb.

Regardless, the general point is that Strictly remains by far the better programme than The X Factor. For all the idea that Strictly‘s audience is elderly and boring compared to the hip young gunslingers watching ITV, Strictly is way more daring and innovative in terms of musical choices – they danced to the Kings of Leon on Friday night, after The Gossip and The Killers have been on the soundtrack in previous series, while The X Factor won’t feature anything that’s not on heavy rotation on Smooth FM. And in Brucie, we’ve got the most compelling and anarchic presenter on telly – whether it’s egging on the audience in an impromptu Vera Lynn singalong or repeating jokes (and letting the running order go to pot) until they get the laugh he feels they deserve, you can’t take your eyes off him. He really doesn’t give a toss. And, of course, he’s been in this business long enough to know that this type of scheduling war is not a new thing – what about when his Big Night went up against the Generation Game in 1978?

Funnily enough, The X Factor managed to beat Strictly in the ratings, after all ITV’s bleating, so what’s the betting we’ll see these arguments about “serving the public” quietly fade away over the next few weeks, and Cowell stop being quite so concerned about his mum, who apparently loves both?

Regardless of all the arguments, though, one thing is for certain – Jeremy Hunt is a complete idiot who has got far too much time on his hands and had been taken in by some complete guff from the ITV press office. Do some bloody work, man!


8 Responses to “The Y Factor”

  1. Glenn Aylett on September 20th, 2009 5:34 pm

    I had to laugh when the unofficial controller of ITV, Mr Cowell, referred to the X Factor as a quality programme. Like, hello, someone massacring a James Blunt song is comparable with Panorama and the X Factor is worthy enough to be shown on BBC Four. It’s a rigged talent contest with bland, formulaic music that makes millions for its creator.

  2. GeorgeS on September 20th, 2009 5:58 pm

    Well done to ITV. Its the best guerilla marketing campaign in support of a tv show in ages. The 10,000 pound gorilla ;) that is the BBC is so flat footed sometimes, but it never ceases to be fun to see someone make a monkey out of them (OK enought ape references now!)

  3. Mike Daniels on September 21st, 2009 9:12 am

    How? By drawing mass attention to a BBC show?


  4. John Phillips on September 21st, 2009 4:55 pm

    Thank God I’m not the only one bemused by all this!

    We always knew that Cowell thrived on manipulating his audience, but this took things to a new level. In all the furore, only this article has managed to spot that X Factor mysteriously moved back an hour this week compared to EVERY other episode this series!

  5. Steve Williams on September 21st, 2009 7:22 pm

    Meanwhile, no wonder the newspaper industry is going to the dogs when the front page of the Sunday Mirror is “ALESHA IS CRAP”, a story based entirely around comments made by bitchy teenage girls at 8.31pm on Friday night when they decided she was too pretty. Three hundred complaints… out of nine million viewers! She doesn’t have any professional dancing qualifications, but it’s not a preofessional dancing competition! It’s Strictly!

    I don’t much care for Ian “I Wish I Was Ally Ross” Hyland normally but he got it dead right yesterday…

    I particularly liked…
    “Still, I may be able to help poor old Simon Cowell out. Cos if he really does want to put his ego second (ha!) and do something to make the people at home happy, and if changing a schedule really is as easy as he claims, then why doesn’t he just tell ITV to put The X Factor on at 6pm?”

    Now everyone’s banging on about how they’re not going to move it given it’s “flopped”. So, clearly, if they’re happy with it where it is, it’s not about the ratings, is it?

  6. Nick H on September 21st, 2009 9:11 pm

    The BBC have played a rather canny strategy here, which will bear fruit in future weeks when the audition phase ends on X Factor and we have to trudge through the boring rounds till the enevitable radio fodder wins at Xmas.
    It’s the nature of these times. The Private industries and the political class have ballsed it up and what do they do to respond- blame the public sector! The BBC are doing exactly what they’ve been bullied to do by successive governments and the owned media – to play ratings game and justify their licence fee. When the BBC do it successfully, suddenly they are accused of being too commercial and forgetting their public service obligations! What a load of bullshit…

  7. Applemask on September 21st, 2009 10:40 pm

    Dec does have the wit to know this is all old bollocks. He didn’t say that, ITV said it through him.

  8. Glenn Aylett on September 25th, 2009 1:51 pm

    I agree with Nick H, the BBC is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. If the BBC spends money on BBC Four, it has the tabloids on its back complaining that it is wasting money on programmes that don’t appeal to ” ordinary” people, ie the patronising view these papers have of their readerships who are presumed to only watch the most mainstream rubbish available. Then if they show a programme like Strictly Come Dancing, actually a very well made and well liked dancing show, the broadsheets jump on their back and say they should be spending the money on opera on BBC Four, when in reality the person who penned this diatribe possibly would sooner tune in to watch attractive women dancing in short skirts than listen to four hours of opera.