Chris O’Dowd has suggested that black singers do not go far enough on the X Factor because the “viewing public is racist”.

The Bridesmaids actor, 34, who shot to fame on The IT Crowd, told the Radio Times that he was a “big X Factor fan”.

But the Irish star, whose semi-autobiographical comedy Moone Boy returns to Sky1 next week, added: “Generally my favourites go out in the first few weeks and, of course, because the viewing public is so racist, all the black, strong singers go out in round five every year.”

Last year, X Factor contestant Hannah Barrett revealed that she had been subjected to “horrible, racist comments” during her stint on the ITV show.

She told Reveal magazine: ”I’ve received a lot of horrible, racist comments on Twitter. People say I’m too dark to be a singer.

“People say: ‘You’re black and ugly’ and nasty things like that… The sad thing is that most of them are made by black people who just have lighter skin than me.”

Hallelujah singer Alexandra Burke became the first black contestant to win the show in 2008, while Leona Lewis, who triumphed in 2006, has a black father and white mother.