Simon Cowell questions choice of contestant

The owner and creator of The X Factor have piled the pressure on TV3 by questioning its judgment in allowing a contestant with a manslaughter conviction to take part.

The criticisms from FremantleMedia Australia-New Zealand and show creator Simon Cowell come as the mother of 16-year-old stabbing victim Jeremy Frew says she is considering legal action against TV3.

Shae Brider, of Masterton, made it into the next round on Tuesday's episode of The X Factor NZ after admitting on air that he was involved in a "commotion" leading to the teen's fatal stabbing in 2004, for which he spent six years in prison.

After the show was aired, Jeremy's mother Donna Travers criticised Brider and TV3 for giving a misleadingly benign version of the killing, and for not warning her and her family that it would be publicly discussed.

TV3 owner MediaWorks and FremantleMedia have since made public and private apologies to the family, promising to air apologies before coming episodes.

"A very poor editorial decision was made by producers to include a hurtful backstory . . . We unreservedly apologise for the pain this has caused," a FremantleMedia representative said yesterday, adding that it was introducing a more rigid approval process to prevent a repeat.

And a spokeswoman for Cowell's company, Syco, said it did not know someone with such a serious conviction would be appearing on the show.

"We have latterly been made aware of the situation and take this matter very seriously," she told NZME. "We are currently looking into it with the local producer, MediaWorks."

But Travers said no apology could repair the damage done, and that she might take legal advice. "If someone's accountable for this, what action needs to be taken?"

MediaWorks spokeswoman Rachel Lorimer declined to answer questions yesterday about keeping Brider on the show, and whether the episode featuring him amounted to a misuse of its $800,000 taxpayer funding through NZ on Air.

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She also refused to say whether there had been any backlash from the show's sponsors McDonald's, Fruttare, 2degrees, VO5, Mazda and SkyCity Auckland.

SkyCity declined to comment, while a representative for Streets, which produces Fruttare, said it was pleased an apology would be aired. The others did not respond.

NZ on Air spokeswoman Allanah Kalafatelis said its funding contracts did not prohibit content causing reputational harm to NZ On Air, but did stipulate compliance with Broadcasting Act standards, including privacy, good taste, decency, balance, fairness and accuracy. Anyone believing these standards had been breached should complain to TV3 and, if not satisfied, to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Brider also declined to comment further yesterday, after saying on Thursday that he regretted going on the show.

But a man at his home, who would not give his name but said he was a friend, said Brider went on X Factor to begin making a positive contribution to society. Now he was overwhelmed by the intense attention and social-media criticism his decision sparked.

"This fella has worked really hard . . . People don't know what it's like after you get out [of prison], trying to get somewhere."

 - The Dominion Post

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