In defence of the X-factor

In defence of the X-factor


norman lebrecht

October 15, 2010

Two cultural arguments were advanced in last night’s Battle of Ideas debate in vindication of the gladiatorial television contest that has created a feeding frenzy in British mass media.

The New Culture Forum founder Peter Whittle suggested that Simon Cowell’s ruthlessly commercial competition was useful corrective to the anti-competitive ethos fostered in UK schools – the politically correct attitude that ‘everyone must have prizes’.

And Mark Frith, editor of Time Out London, volunteered that Cowell had, wittingly or otherwise, exposed the real cruelties of the music business and empowered aspirants to deal with record producers from a greater knowledge base.

Other contributors assailed television’s loss of confidence in pursuing slick contests. The BBC came in for stick for its alliance with Andrew Lloyd Webber and its derogation of serious arts programming to similar ingredients. Cowell could be laughed off for what he is – a successful producer of pap. No-one rose to defend the BBC.