Sunday, 16 January 2011


The X Factor

Tens of millions of television viewers around the world have become familiar with the musical talent show The X Factor, which originated in Britain in 2004 and has since become an international franchise. In some countries the name is different — for example, Factor X in Spain and XSeer Al Najah in Arabic-speaking countries — but the format is usually the same: aspiring pop singers or groups compete in front of a Nsmall group of judges, and a large studio audience, for the prize of a lucrative recording contract.
The British version of the show has been enormously successful. Broadcast on
Saturday evenings between August and December, it is watched by an average of around 13 million people — more than a fifth of the population. The studio audience is extremely enthusiastic (at times almost hysterical) and the four judges, who give their opinions immediately after each performance, are usually jeered if they make negative comments. The TV audience votes by telephone for their favourite act, and on Sunday evening the results are announced in a follow-up show. The two acts who receive the fewest votes from the public normally have to perform again in the followup show, and then their fate is in the hands of the judges: the one the judges think has sung better stays in the competition, but the loser is eliminated.
As the competition progresses, the performers are in the public eye for far longer than two evenings a week: their talents (or lack of), personalities and off-stage behaviour are also discussed endlessly by gossip magazines and tabloids, their faces frequently appearing on the front pages. Feelings run so high that campaigns for or against certain contestants are launched on social networking sites.
In Britain, winning The X Factor guarantees that a singer or group will be able to
make a lot of money from their music, at least in the short term. In most years, for example, the debut single by the winner, released in December, has reached the top of the singles charts by Christmas.
Some people, however, think the programme has too much influence on the music-buying public, which is why in 2009 there was a successful campaign to encourage people to buy an alternative single and thereby ensure the song by The X Factor’s winner wouldn’t be number one at Christmas. The campaign is being repeated this year. Another kind of protest against the 2010 competition was when a lot of people tried to undermine it by voting every week for the contestant with by far the worst singing voice — he was finally eliminated only in late November.

 Exercise 1

Decide whether the following statements are true (T) or false (F), or if the text doesn’t say (D).

1. The contestants on the British version of The X Factor perform in London.
2. The winner in 2010 was the contestant with the worst singing voice.
3. There are three judges.
4. The song by the winner of the 2009 competition was number one at Christmas that year.
5. The studio audience usually likes it when the judges make negative comments.
6. The TV audience for the programme increases as the competition progresses.
7. The judges decide which two acts have to perform again in the follow-up programme on Sunday evening.
8. The judges are the same people every week.
9. Spain has its own version of The X Factor.
10. Every country in Europe has its own version of The X Factor.

Exercise 2

Answer the questions below.

1. What kind of British newspapers endlessly discuss the contestants on The X Factor?
2. What do the winners of the competition receive?
3. When was the programme first shown on British TV?
4. On average, what proportion of the British population watches The X Factor on a Saturday evening?
5. What example of the show’s ‘influence on the music-buying public’ is given in the text?
6. In what way have campaigns in 2009 and 2010 tried to undermine this influence?


Exercise 1
1. D 2. F 3. F 4. F 5. F 6. D 7. F 8. D 9. T 10. D
Exercise 2
1. Tabloids.
2. A lucrative recording contract.
3. 2004.
4. More than a fifth.
5. The fact that in most years since The X Factor first appeared on British TV, the
winner’s debut single has quickly reached number one in the singles charts.
6. By encouraging people to buy an alternative single (‘Killing in the Name’ by the
American band Rage Against the Machine in 2009, and believe it or not, a studio
recording of pure silence in 2010) and thereby ensuring the song by The X Factor’s winner wouldn’t be number one at Christmas.

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