X Factor under fire for rule breaches

The X Factor has been criticised for breaching rules on product promotion and its failure to curb the use of flashing lights during performances.

Ofcom investigated the hit ITV1 show over concerns that host Dermot told viewers that they could download singles by its guest singers, Diana Vickers and Michael Buble.

Programme-makers blamed the references, which they admitted were “inappropriate”, to “an unfortunate script error”.

The mistake was initially not spotted in the headline-grabbing series last year, on October 17, when Dermot said: “If you want to download Diana’s single, details at ITV.com/Xfactor.”

The same script was used as a basis for the October 24 programme. During that broadcast the error was noticed and the script was corrected for all future shows.

Programme-makers said that The X Factor website contained no information on downloading its guest artists’ songs and that the tracks were not available to download there.

But Ofcom found the programme in breach of section 10.3 of the broadcasting code, which states that “products and services must not be promoted in programmes”.

In a separate ruling, Ofcom also criticised the screening of a pre-recorded performance by X Factor judge Cheryl on October 24 last year, after receiving a complaint about the flashing lights.

Certain types of flashing images can trigger seizures in viewers who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy (PSE).

Ofcom found non-compliant “flashing where the brightness, frequency and screen areas exceeded the intensity limits set out in the guidance” during the performance of the star’s new single, Promise This.

Ofcom said it was “concerned” with the programme-makers’ explanation – that the equipment it hired to test the lighting effects must have needed re-calibration.