Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Voice versus Britain's Got Talent

The first disbled pop-star I saw on the BBC was Robert Wyatt, performing I’m Believer on Top of the Pops in 1974. Wyatt had been paralysed from the waist down following a party thrown by June Campbell Cramer (Lady June) the year before. The producer hadn’t wanted Wyatt to appear in his wheelchair because it wasn’t “rock and roll” enough, but Wyatt won the day.

Things have changed, and now the BBC dictates what is and isn’t appropriate for us, its funders, to see, hear and learn.

Which is why I’d had high hopes for The Voice, a new talent show where the four judges – Tom Jones, Jessie J, and Danny O’ Donoghue – cannot see the source of the voice they before they decide whether to take them on for further training.

While this much was true, it soon became obvious that the contestants had already been through a pre-show selection process that the viewing public, ie licence-payers funding the show, were not invited to witness, much less comment on or participate in.

One good thing was that the ageist, sexist BBC hierarchy would see Tom Jones as merely the token older person and Jessie J as merely the token woman. But these two ended up with three artistes each, jointly leading the pack.

But where were the very British eccentrics that make talent shows in this country such fun? Acts of the sort that you can see every week on Britain’s Got Talent, the ITV behemoth that competes with The Voice for the same slot? The public-school, high-culture BBC decision-makers decided that they are not suitable for us to see.

click to see Jonathan and Charlotte's performanceMeanwhile, on BGT, blue-collar Brits (and Europeans) entertained us, finishing with operatic teens Jonathan and Charlotte who blew the opposition away. I know what I’ll be watching in coming weeks.

Tony Urquhart
300 words

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