Television talent shows such as The X Factor are 'exploiting and humiliating' their contestants by making them work for no pay, the performers' union Equity has said. Production companies which make the shows generate huge profits from the 'cheap exploitation' of vulnerable people desperate to break into the entertainment industry, the union said. Equity said a loophole in minimum wage legislation means contestants on reality talent shows are not classed as workers, and have no employment rights. The X Factor returns to ITV1 on Saturday, and Equity wants all contestants who reach the final round to be paid and to have legal status as workers with proper employment rights. The union is to table a motion at next month'' TUC conference calling on TV companies to pay talent show contestants. The motion will read: "These programmes may be very popular with the public but are based on exploitation and humiliation of vulnerable people, which cannot be acceptable." The union called on independent production companies such as Talkback Thames, the makers of The X Factor, to follow the example of the BBC, which paid contestants in the final rounds of talent shows How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do and I'd Do Anything at Equity rates. But Talkback, which also makes Britain's Got Talent, said the shows gave ordinary people the chance to showcase their talents and potentially transform their lives. "Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor are talent competitions," the statement read. "They are not employment in their own right and therefore Equity rates do not apply. Contestants chose to enter to compete for a substantial prize."
Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.
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