Fixing Talent Shows

An anonymous blogger has claimed that "Britain's Got Talent" has been fixed to favour a contestant who was talent spotted by Syco (Simon Cowell's production company) some time ago. Syco and Sony BMG, the parent company utterly deny the claim and have called in the police. The blogger's site has been taken down.

There is no suggestion that this story is true, but whatever the facts, talent shows have in the past been rigged. Opportunity Knocks certainly was. The famous "Clap-o-meter" was not linked to the audience, but to a studio assistant who worked it in favour of Hughie Green's choice.

Perhaps the biggest scandal which blew apart Opportunity Knocks was that of an Australian Band, New World.

Mike Hurst, their producer, told me what happened:

Mickie Most
Mickie Most introduced me to an Australian band called New World. They were on Opportunity Knocks.  So, my first comment was, “Surely, we are going to see if they win it” and Mickie said, “Oh, they will”. That was my first intimation that things weren’t quite as they should be. A guy from ATV who produced the show said, “and when they win the final..” and I looked at him and said, “How can you be so sure?” and he said, “Don’t worry, we are very sure. They are going to win.” That’s when it all came home and I realised it was fixed. The fix was nothing to do with me; I was just going to make a record. Mickie came up with the song, Rose Garden. Which Lynn Anderson had just got out in the States.

In those days, records that came out in America, by Americans, which were hits, there was a time-lag. Today everything comes out all over, instantly. In 1970, there was at least a four or five week gap in terms of release. So what happened was that, if people got wind of something that was about to become a hit in the States they did a cover version for the UK and Europe market. Mickie Most loved covers. It was an easy way, and he said, “Let’s do Rose Garden”, so I did the track. As soon as it came out, Lynn Anderson’s arrived as well. Lynn Anderson’s went to number one, and New World’s went to number five. In Europe, in Germany, for reasons I cannot understand, they went for the New World version and it was number one in Germany. The follow up singles, I really did not like them. I wasn’t picking the songs of course; it was Mickie Most at RAK Records. He’d got this song, Tom, Tom Turnaround which I produced, reluctantly, but it was a bloody great hit. There were others more or less all the same. At that point, I gave up on it. I really couldn’t take anymore and I’d had enough. It was great to have the hits, but they just weren’t my cup of tea.
Of course, the fixing scandal of Opportunity Knocks blew open and that’s what killed New World. They were at my house in Henley, rehearsing. They got a phone call and literally ran out of the house. I had never seen people move so fast. They had a car waiting to take them to Henley station. They went back to London and the next thing I heard, the band had been arrested. Of course they could never be accused of anything but they were material witnesses to the Opportunity Knocks fix. After it all got out it destroyed their career. But it didn’t bother Mickie. He just took it where it came from. 

Mike Hurst
(You can read about Mike's career in the music business over at by clicking the "Producers" tab.

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