Move over Kevin Keegan – Tyneside has a new messiah, at least for the time being. In front of a television audience of 20 million, Joe McElderry, from South Shields was last night named the winner of the talent contest The X Factor . As the host Dermot O'Leary announced the result, McElderry, an 18-year-old performing arts student, was embraced by his mentor, fellow Geordie Cheryl Cole, and demonstrated what must be an X Factor first: no tears ... not one.
"I can't even speak, thank you so much everyone," McElderry said. "I can't actually speak and I just want to say thank you to Cheryl. She has been an amazing mentor."
Cole told him: "I feel over the moon, I'm absolutely delighted. The right person won. I'm so proud of you. The North-East are going to be going mad."
The runner-up, Olly Murs, 25, from Witham, Essex, was magnanimous in defeat, saying: "Joe has been amazing every week."
Cole's fellow judge Simon Cowell, who owns the X Factor format, thanked everyone, but particularly the 10 million people who gave him their money by phoning in to vote in the final.
McElderry, who beat 200,000 entrants to win the competition, then performed his debut single, a cover version of Miley Cyrus's "The Climb" from Hannah Montana: The Movie, as the first CDs were being pressed to go on sale this morning. Barring a miracle, or the success of an online anti-X Factor campaign urging music fans to instead buy Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name", McElderry will almost certainly have Christmas No 1.
His victory was the second in a row for Cole as a mentor; she also coached last year's winner Alexandra Burke.
Sir Paul McCartney sang with all 12 finalists before the phone voting lines finally closed. Cowell jokingly told the former Beatle: "On behalf of everyone, you're though to the next round."
To its critics, The X Factor represents the triumph of the hype and celebrity culture which has taken over popular television. But there are two facts that are not hype. It has brought families together in front of their television sets in a way in most commentators said was impossible in our fragmented digital age. It has also provided a financial lifeline to ITV, allowing it to invest in programmes which are perhaps more worthy but would get a fraction of the audience. The broadcaster was able to charge up to £250,000 for each 30- second advertising slot.
Overall, the series is expected to earn £100m, with £20m generated from the weekend's two shows. Nigel Robinson, of MediaCom, an agency which buys advertising space for clients, said the programme was a vital part of ITV's attempts to improve its revenues and viewing figures.
"It is incredibly important to ITV. It is one of those big anchors in the schedule," he added. "Without X Factor this autumn, things would be much more difficult for ITV. It is hugely important.
"The X Factor will have given ITV a good percentage viewer share. That's what they are battling to win. It has been incredibly successful for them in the way Big Brother has been in the past for Channel 4."
The two finals were expected to provide the broadcaster with the most lucrative weekend in its history. The series appeals to advertisers because it attracts large numbers of viewers in a way that is usually limited to major sporting events, and this means ITV can charge advertisers premium rates. They are willing to bear the inflated costs because they can reach so many people at once, especially in the vital pre-Christmas trading period, and because being associated with the show gives them a certain amount of kudos.
Mr Robinson added: "People's viewing habits are quite fragmented in this age of digital and satellite TV. The X Factor is one of the few programmes which have got the pull and can attract a really, really big audience."
Where are they now? Previous talent show stars
*Girls Aloud won Popstars: The Rivals (2002). Reality TV's biggest success, with six platinum albums and 20 consecutive UK Top 10 singles. Cheryl Cole is now a judge on The X Factor.
* Steve Brookstein won the inaugural The X Factor in 2004. But he rowed with Simon Cowell and his record label, Sony BMG, dropped him in 2005. He has since gigged in pubs, ferries and Butlins.
* Michelle McManus won Pop Idol in 2003. But after one number one, failed to set the charts alight. Her second single flopped, reaching a mere number 16 in the charts.
* Will Young beat favourite Gareth Gates in the first Pop Idol (2002). He has sold 8million albums, won an Ivor Novello award, and was featured in an episode of ITV1's The South Bank Show.
What was the most memorable arts event of 2009? In the comments form below (or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org) nominate your favourite - in film, music, theatre, comedy, dance or visual arts - with a brief explanation as to why it tops your list and we'll print a selection in The Independent Readers' Review of 2009.