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ITV Circus – Holding the Music Industry Accountable

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Article by: Stacy McWilliams

Over the past few years Rebecca Ferguson and Katie Waissel have been working tirelessly to hold ITV, Freemantle, Modest Management and Syco music accountable for the treatment they suffered as they participated in The Xfactor in 2010. 

The girls stated that the abuses they have suffered continued post The X Factor where they were forced to sign contracts with the management company recommended by the X Factor team and were given no outside legal advice. If they had refused to sign they would be asked to leave the show and would not proceed further. 

The abuse of acts in this way is something that’s insidious and still continues to this day. Just in the last few weeks, Carolyn McCall, current CEO of ITV stated during her interview with MPs that ITV would have investigated the reality show contracts and claims of past abuse, but this is untrue as both Rebecca and Katie have been vocal about the abuses they suffered as part of the X Factor and have tried on numerous occasions to get the network to investigate. Rebecca has shared emails regarding this.  

For example, Katie has stated that she was sexually assaulted, had her mental health ridiculed and was forced to perform when struggling. Rebecca has stated that she wasn’t allowed to see her children, was forced by the contracts she signed on The X Factor, to perform when sick, forced to pretend to be okay to board a flight and was made to give interviews while suffering a miscarriage. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of abuse that The X Factor put contestants through both while contestants and post X Factor as they were tied to the contracts they signed while appearing on the show. There was also financial abuse and how artists were poorly compensated for performances. The fees for artists was higher as the progressed through the show, but artists saw very little of the revenue created. 

Further legal abuse in the fact that some artists, even extremely famous artists are still signed to the same legal teams that they were forced to sign with post XFactor, for example every single member of One Direction is still under the exact same legal team that they signed with post XFactor and Niall is still signed with Modest. 

Katie has stated in a live space that I attended personally that the lawyers were based in the same office as Modest Management, which is a clear conflict of interest. How can a company provide independent legal advice if they share office space with the management company the artists are signing to, without their consent? How can they work to ensure that the needs of the contestant are being met over the demands of the management company and how can they ensure artists receive fair and just treatment if they work so closely with the team in charge of their careers? 

Further, Katie and Rebecca have both stated that artists are forced to sign Non Disclosure Agreements ( NDAs) and in some cases these are in perpetuity, life long NDAs which could be why artists years later still say that they are grateful to the XFactor and still praise Simon Cowell, even though as architect for the XFactor and head of Syco music he ensured acts signed to the management label he chose, signed to the lawyers and accountants chosen and was responsible for heinous abuses of contestants over the years in the name of entertainment. 

How are artists supposed to thrive when the balance of power lies completely with those at the top of labels? How are artists allowed to be sexually abused or harassed in the work place yet there is no recourse to hold these people accountable?


Isn’t it high time that the creators of the music were paid correctly instead of the labels milking them for every penny and abusing them further?

TV talent shows need moderation and all artists past and present who have come through the ranks of a TV talent show should be freed from any outstanding NDA’s. Holding abusers to account should never come at a financial cost and artists brave enough to speak out like Rebecca Ferguson should never have to sacrifice their singing career to speak out. 

We all have a duty of care to each other, but especially those nurturing talent. Should they continue to get away with this horrific imbalance of power, able to write clauses into contracts that lead to closeting, poor mental health, poor physical health and addictions. 

Further, if we look at the assigned doctors we must hold them accountable for administering medication to clients to force them to work, to further abuse them when doctors are in-house, how impartial can they be when they are working for the labels, TV corporations and managers, instead of advocating for the patients they act in the interest of the labels and force clients to perform sick or injured. 

It’s high time the TV corporations were held accountable for facilitating these kind of environments and perhaps if the public complain enough then these things will need to be investigated and we can move into a time of clear impartiality and stop abuse before it takes place, whether that be financial, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Let’s change things for the better for future generations and make sure that we protect vulnerable people wanting to better their lives. 

In the days following the hearing we have since found out that there was an investigation into ITV practices in 2019, but the details and outcomes of this investigation were never made public. Rebecca Ferguson has stated that she will make it her mission to find out the outcome of this investigation and have the results made public which is a very good thing as it holds ITV accountable and ensures that the public are made aware of any negligence or underhand proceedings. 

Further, Katie has had contact from members of parliament and they have stated that they are acting upon information and complaints about artist treatment that Katie has raised with them and that these are being escalated. This is hugely encouraging and as Katie says on twitter, she will continue to fight for artist rights, but this is a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel. 

All in all, as fans of music we should all be very grateful for the tireless work that Katie and Rebecca have put in to raise these issues in the public eye, sacrificing their time, their music careers and their safety at times to make sure that they hold those in charge of the XFactor and within the music industry accountable. It will be interesting to see what comes next, but it shouldn’t take a scandal to ensure artists receive fair treatment while taking part in TV talent shows, it should be commonplace to treat people with kindness, respect and humanity. All we can do now is hope things get better, the NDAs end and in future, people in power aren’t given the power over the lives of those working for them to this extent, ever again. 

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