When the Culture Secretary heard that The Voice was being dropped by the BBC and picked up by ITV instead, he may well have smiled to himself. After all, the Government had cited the talent show as the kind of unoriginal and expensive programming the corporation should avoid.
But with the show’s final series on the BBC about to begin, it turns out that John Whittingdale’s opinion of public service broadcasting is shared by one of The Voice’s own judges.
Paloma Faith, who is taking the seat vacated by Rita Ora to join Will.i.am, Ricky Wilson and Boy George on the panel, had suggested that executives at Broadcasting House will have to rein in the spending when competing with the commercial sector.
“People would complain if the BBC battled ITV with this capitalist attitude,” said Faith, speaking at a launch event for the show.
Accepting that the BBC had to pull out, the pop singer added: “You can’t just throw all the licence fee money at different things. That wouldn’t be justified. They have to spend the money across everything.”
The talent show, which returns on Saturday 9 January, attracted 10 million viewers last year – a peak audience higher than rival The X Factor, which is in ratings decline. But it has proved unable to generate singing stars and is transferring to ITV after its current run, after BBC executives backed out of a bidding war for the series following criticism in an official Government consultation document.
The paper said that, while Strictly Come Dancing was a valuable asset that had been developed in-house before being sold abroad, The Voice was “a singing talent show developed overseas, bought by the BBC at a reported cost of around £20m and similar to ITV’s The X-Factor”.
ITV snapped up the show in a £50m three-year deal. New hosts and coaches are promised from 2017 under the arrangement, which includes an ITV spin-off show and a children’s edition called Voice Kids.
Danny Cohen, the BBC director of television, who championed the series, which has so far cost the corporation £55m, quit the BBC in a move which insiders said was connected to the unravelling of his entertainment empire under political pressure.
“I was sad when I found out Danny Cohen was going. I wish we had fought to keep Danny,” said Will.i.am, the only surviving coach from the first series.
Will.i.am said he would decide at a later date if he wanted to make the move over to ITV.
Voice presenter Marvin Humes hoped to survive the ITV transfer. He said: “The Voice is more popular than The X Factor, it’s the No 1 talent show on TV.”
Co-presenter Emma Willis admitted: “We don’t know what’s happening. We don’t know if we’ve still got a job.”
Peter Fincham, the ITV director of television, said The Voice would air alongside X Factor, providing healthy competition with Simon Cowell’s fading format.
The farewell BBC series follows the sacking of coach Sir Tom Jones, who last year joked that the entrants were “shit”.
Sir Tom, who was replaced by Boy George, complained that BBC executives had treated him shoddily.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies