Should Britain’s Got Talent be axed?

The ITV talent show has run for 17 series but is now dogged by Ofcom complaints and accusations of recycling acts.

Ant & Dec and Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden, Simon Cowell, Bruno Tonioli on Britain's Got Talent. (ITV)
Britain's Got Talent was started 17 years ago to find an undiscovered act to perform at the Royal Variety Show. (ITV)

Britain's Got Talent has just crowned its 17th winner, Sydnie Christmas, despite accusations the trained singer already had a professional career.

Simon Cowell launched the ITV talent show back in 2007 with the aim of finding an undiscovered member of the public to perform for the late Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Performance. But 18 years on, some feel that BGT has lost sight of its purpose.

In recent years the family entertainment show has been hit by several scandals and hundreds of complaints. Many viewers have moaned about the acts who audition for the show. And they are showing their displeasure with BGT's current format by turning off, resulting in plummeting ratings.

Britain's Got Talent has spawned many stars since mobile phone salesman Paul Potts stunned the nation in 2008 when he appeared on stage and burst into his powerful operatic performance Nessun Dorma. But after 17 series, has the show lost its entertainment factor?

Here are some of the hurdles BGT has come up against in recent years.

Sydnie Christmas has hit back at claims she was on the West End. (ITV)
BGT winner Sydnie Christmas was the centre of a 'fix' row because of her professional background. (ITV)

This year's winner Sydnie Christmas became the centre of accusations she had an unfair advantage when it was revealed she is a professionally trained singer. Christmas was put straight through to the semi-final by judge Amanda Holden as her Golden Buzzer act for her rendition of Tomorrow from the musical Annie.

Christmas, 28, trained at the D&B Academy of Performing Arts in London in 2014, has worked as a singer on cruise ships, performed in musicals, had small parts in movies and even appeared in reality show Stage School. But she has never been a leading lady on the West End stage and she has previously admitted that is "my dream".

Since winning she has spoken of her heartbreak at the backlash, telling Yahoo UK: "It's soul destroying. If I stick up for myself, they're not going to hear it because they don't want to. They are very angry and it's really difficult as it takes away from this."

Another row emerged in the 2022 auditions when audience member Nick Edwards was 'surprised' by hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly to perform for the judges. Viewers claimed the surprise must have been faked as singer Edwards was already wearing a microphone, but producers denied this, and insisted he did not know he would be asked to audition.

BGT finalists Magicians Assemble had all been on the show before. (ITV)
BGT finalists Magicians Assemble had all been on the show before. (ITV)

Some viewers were unimpressed by the number of familiar faces returning to audition for BGT this year. Finalists Magicians Assemble was a supergroup of magic acts who had all previously appeared on the show. Ben Hart and Elizabeth Best of The Haunting took part in the 13th series, teenager Aidan McCann was finalist in 2020, and Colin Cloud auditioned for BGT in 2012 and America's Got Talent in 2019.

Britain's Got Talent finalists, Hungarian acrobat group 'Attraction', sightseeing in Central London  Featuring: Attraction Where: London, United Kingdom When: 03 Jun 2013
Hungarian shadow theatre group Attraction won BGT in 2013, but had already appeared on the German version of the show. (Alamy)

BGT has now got a track record for featuring acts who have already auditioned for other versions of the TV talent show in other countries. Hungarian dance shadow puppet troupe Attraction won the show in 2013. They had appeared on the German version of the show Das Supertalent in 2012, coming seventh.

Israeli magician Lioz Shem Tov auditioned for BGT in 2020. He had appeared on Israel's Got Talent in 2017, and has also competed in the American, Australian and French versions of the show.

And Norwegian escapologist Christian Wedoy who was featured in BGT 2020 has taken part in other versions of the show seven times. He appeared on Norway's Got Talent twice, in 2019 he did Slovakia's Got Talent, Spain's Got Talent and Bulgaria's Got Talent. And in 2020 he also auditioned for Romania's Got Talent, Italy's Got Talent and Greece's Got Talent.

BGT 2023 was won by Norwegian comedian Viggo Venn. (ITV)
BGT 2023 was won by Norwegian comedian Viggo Venn. (ITV)

There have also been complaints from some viewers about contestants not being British. This year saw many acts from around the world audition, with several making the semi-finals and finals, including Ghanaian dancers Abigail and Afronitaaa, South African opera singer Innocent Masuka, Japanese comedy act Nabe, and Japanese dance troupe CyberAgent Legit.

In 2023 BGT was won by Norwegian comedian Viggo Venn – sparking over 100 complaints to broadcasting regulator Ofcom.

BGT drag act Chantaaaal
Chantaaaal's joke about the Titanic prompted some viewers to complain. (ITV)

Another year, another BGT Ofcom complaint scandal. In the past the show has clocked up complaints to the official TV regulation body for everything, from judge Amanda Holden's racy dresses to Diversity's Black Lives Matter-inspired dance routine.

In 2024 Ofcom has confirmed the show attracted a total of 92 official complaints from viewers for several reasons. Among them, a joke from drag act Chantaaaal about the Titanic tragedy – which saw the passenger ship sink in 1912, killing 1,512 people – was considered to be in bad taste by some.

Bruno Tonioli is a judge on Britain's Got Talent 2024. (ITV)
BGT judge Bruno Tonioli may have a scheduling clash for the show. (ITV)

David Walliams was dropped from Britain's Got Talent after it emerged the former judge had made derogatory remarks about contestants. He was replaced by Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli for the past two years, but now rumours have emerged he might also be leaving the show. But Cowell has denied Tonioli is being axed, although admitted the star may have a scheduling clash with another show he appears on in the US.

It has been revealed ratings for the Britain's Got Talent final this year have fallen to their lowest ever. According to Super TV, the number of people who tuned it to watch Sydnie Christmas named the winner was 5.2 million. While this was actually a high for the latest series, the figure was a further drop on 2023's final, which was watched by 5.3 million viewers. This was already a significant drop on the year before, which stood at seven million viewers.

The viewing figures for BGT have dropped continuously since 2018, when 10.15 million people tuned in. The talent show peaked in 2009 with 18.29 million, and has been in relatively steady decline ever since.

The Royal Variety Performance will be held on Friday 22 November at the Royal Albert Hall