The singer, a finalist on The X Factor in 2010, sent a ‘formal complaint’ to ITV and Ofcom in relation to the treatment of contestants in 2021.
ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall has denied that there was an “arrogance” in how the broadcaster handled Rebecca Ferguson’s claims of mistreatment of contestants during her time on The X Factor.
Last week, the Liverpool-born performer, who was a finalist on the ITV singing competition in 2010, called for media watchdog Ofcom to conduct an investigation into reality TV shows to “ensure the future safety of contestants”.
Ferguson posted on her Twitter account a screenshot of an email which she said she sent to ITV and Ofcom in 2021 making a “formal complaint” in relation to the treatment of contestants on reality shows, but said “my concerns appeared to be fobbed off”.
In the letter, the singer cited reasons for her complaint relating to contestants being “mentally manipulated and abused whilst having mental health problems” and being “reduced to tears due to pressure/bullying”.
The singer also added that her complaint was in relation to contestants being “forced into contracts without independent legal advice” and having to sign with a management company with “no freedom of choice”.
Ferguson stated in the letter that she was making the complaint as she is “very concerned about the future contestants and their welfare”.
Addressing a Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Wednesday, ITV’s chief executive Dame Carolyn said they take the allegations “seriously” as the broadcaster of the show, but noted that the production company behind it, Fremantle, was who she felt should have met directly with Ferguson.
ITV’s company secretary Kyla Mullins said that when Ferguson raised the issues in 2021, they passed the concerns along to Fremantle.
She said: “They responded to all of those (concerns) and I think the key message was that actually the issues where Rebecca focused on and was suggesting that things needed to change, there needed to be a different approach to how the music industry deals with with young people entering record contracts and how companies like Fremantle run things.
“There was confirmation on, I think, every point that she raised that actually things had moved on and moved on quite significantly, and that they took duty of care very seriously and there had been changes in the industry.”
Ms Mullins added that when Ferguson responded by asking if there was going to be an investigation into her concerns, ITV believed there was “nothing really for us as the broadcaster to investigate” as they felt there had been “improvements” in the areas she raised.
Asked by the committee chair Dame Caroline Dinenage if there was an “arrogance in dismissing her concerns and saying ‘we’ve dealt with this’”, Dame Carolyn replied: “I honestly don’t think that’s our attitude to this.
“We worked with Fremantle, we asked the producer to deal with it, just as we would deal with it as a producer on behalf of the broadcaster.
“The broadcaster is broadcasting the show. We now particularly have very strict requirements on duty of care.
“In 2010/2011, Fremantle would have been dealing with the day-to-day and so (ITV’s chief operations officer) Sarah Clarke put that through to Fremantle because they’re the producer, and said: ‘Actually, if Rebecca was going to meet with anybody, it should have been Fremantle.’ They’re still alive and well.”
Dame Carolyn also noted that their duty of care requirements for third party producers has “increased significantly” since 2019.
“There would always be spot checks, there would always been people on the ground. But I think what we do now is systematic, from selection, to production, to post production – it’s systematic and it’s written down,” she added.
“We have a duty of care charter, we have a mental health advisory group, we have two medical professionals who work for us, both retained. We have an external advisor… So we have a huge, comprehensive process of duty of care and it’s systematic.”
The chief executive faced questions about the culture at ITV on Wednesday from MPs alongside Ms Mullins and ITV managing director Kevin Lygo after former This Morning host Phillip Schofield’s exit.
Fremantle have been contacted for comment.