Apparently TV watchdogs are to investigate the treatment of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent after a flood of complaints from viewers. The 48-year-old singer, who has learning difficulties, was last night being treated at a private clinic after suffering an emotional breakdown in the aftermath of the show.
Nineteen million viewers watched the beginning of Miss Boyle's meltdown on Saturday night as she was beaten to first place by dance group Diversity. Within 24 hours, police officers and TV producers had forcibly escorted her to The Priory clinic in north London.
Media regulator Ofcom is considering an investigation into whether ITV has breached the broadcasting code after viewers flooded phone lines with a 'large number of complaints'. Section eight of the code states: 'People in a state of distress should not be put under pressure to take part in a programme or provide interviews, unless it is warranted.'
Radio phone-ins and internet chatrooms have been buzzing with claims that Miss Boyle should never have been allowed to compete in the final after a week of disturbing behaviour in the lead-up to the show. The Priory group's chief medical officer took the unusual step of speaking out to criticise TV production companies responsible for making stars of ill-prepared individuals. Professor Chris Thompson said: 'I would want to know that people being exposed to such pressures are actually looked after. I think I know what TV companies would say - they would say "these people are willing volunteers ..."
'The fact that there is consent between the TV company and contestant does not prevent the TV company having a duty of care once that consent has been given.'
One of the show's judges, Piers Morgan, said the singer from West Lothian had been in a 'state' all week. 'I think she was exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and she had had no proper sleep in days and hadn't been eating,' he said.
Ofcom would not reveal how many complaints it had received about the Miss Boyle controversy, but was expected to release a general figure for complaints concerning the last week of Britain's Got Talent later.
Let's just look at the plain facts: she came, she surprised everyone by being not half bad, she competed, she lost. Simple as that. The show is a competition, so someone has to lose. Actually, almost everyone has to lose, because there's only one winner and personally I thought the result was a good one - I'd bet any amount of money that the winning dance troupe had put far more dedication and hard work into their performance than any of the singers (even the enchanting Hollie Steel, who must not only be an unusually good little songstress but a stunning actress if the accusations that her tears were put on are to be believed. Which they aren't).
Of course many schools up and down the country already know, and put into practice, the idea that all forms of competition are inherently damaging because it's bad for people to lose. We look forward to the day when this principle is applied to the Premier League or the Olympics. Let's face it, all we need is another term for Nu-Labour and 2012 could look very different ...
But what seizes my attention is the sheer ignorant hypocrisy displayed by so many people. Can you imagine the fuss these self-same bleeding hearts would have made if the woman had been prevented from competing in the first place because she was a bit flaky? Yet they see no paradox in bleating because having competed, she didn't win!
Either disabled (sorry, differently-abled) people want to be treated like everyone else or they don't. I suspect most of them do. But sadly those who take it upon themselves to speak on their behalf don't want that at all - they want preferential treatment. They want them to be able to compete on level terms with everyone else, but then they must be allowed to win in case they get upset.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And as I've said before in these pages, why should the same principle not be applied to everyone? I have a handicap in life, which is that I'm a really rotten cricketer, but I love the game and would like to be selected for England. I'm differently-abled, you see, and you ought to let me have what I want in case I get upset.
And if I don't get it, I think I ought to have the right to treatment at The Priory. It costs £3,000 a week, but someone else can pay that for me. It's the least they can do.
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