Universal reputation


I’m hooked watching The Voice UK, the reality talent show with a difference that the BBC started broadcasting in primetime on Saturday nights a few weeks ago.

I’m not a fan of talent, reality or any other such TV show. I’ve never seen a complete episode of Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, Celebrity Whatever, etc. Rarely do I even watch live ‘entertainment’ TV. I feel no sense of loss!

Yet there I am on a Saturday night, rearranging my evening around a live mainstream-medium time schedule, glued to the TV to watch a succession of some pretty talented people trying to make a connection with the four judges – pictured above in the banner: Jessie J, Danny O’Donoghue, Tom Jones and will.i.am – relying only on their voices to get their attention.

The contest reaches its ultimate conclusion in a few months with one of the contestants winning a recording contract with Universal Music.

Trying to figure out the appeal, I think for me it’s the combination of some genuine talent 0n show, the format of the show itself and the idea of judges as coaches and mentors, the mix of those judges and their engagement with the contestants, and the overall sense of authenticity it all has.

Plus the additional vicarious pleasure of using a social medium like Twitter to see what anyone else thinks.

But authenticity? Could that view be misplaced?

According to a report in The Daily Mirror yesterday, the show has “dodgy links” with record label Universal Music:

[…] The Mirror can reveal that a number of the show’s contestants have previously worked with the music giant, which is offering a recording deal to the eventual winner.

Now MPs have called for an ­investigation and branded the BBC1 show – which has three Universal stars on its panel – “an expensive advert” for the label.

Amy Winehouse’s pal Tyler James, who appeared on Saturday’s show, was signed to the label in 2004. And Heshima Thompson, who sang last week, worked extensively with tragic Universal star Winehouse. Neither of these links was deemed worthy of a mention on the hit talent show.

Text in bold is my emphasis. There’s more, according to the Mirror:

[…] Three of the show’s four coaches – Jessie J, 24, Sir Tom Jones, 71, and Black Eyed Peas star will.i.am, 37 – are signed to the record label. Each has seen their sales rocket as a result of the primetime exposure – giving Universal a massive windfall.

HMV reports that Jessie J’s album has seen an 89% boost, Sir Tom Jones’s sales are up a third, and will.i.am’s by 6%.

The Daily Mail reports on the story today, saying:

[…] Last night the BBC said: ‘The Voice is purely about talent. The only criteria is entrants must not be under current recording contract.”

Yet according to those mainstream media reports, some of the contestants do have contracts. Both papers say that viewers have taken to Twitter to express their outrage. Well, I’ve trawled through the show’s Twitter hashtag #BBCTheVoiceUK and can find no evidence of ‘outrage’ beyond a tweet here and there. Maybe that’s what we call journalistic license in reporting.

Still, you see where this is going, don’t you? Big budget TV show, millions in license payers’ money; through non-disclosure of material facts about existing commercial relationships, everyone involved looks like they’re making fools of people who view the show. It paints it all with a thick brush of what looks like sleaze – great tabloid fodder. Such a disappointment.

No transparency, no honesty, no authenticity.

Is it true, Universal and BBC? Say it isn’t so.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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