Television producer and music impresario Simon Cowell has hit out against the BBC's decision to schedule their ratings blockbuster University Challenge opposite Cowell's lesser-know ITV show The X Factor, for the second year running.
The entertainment mogul is once again in danger of being left red-faced and beaten hands down in the ratings war: repeating last year's farce when the X Factor finale drew in a measly 150 viewers, as opposed to the 25 million who tuned in to watch Kings College Oxford beat plucky underdogs the University of Wolverhampton in a thrilling last-minute beat the buzzer climax that turned Chris Mainwaring, reading pre 19th century architecture, into a household name.
'I'll never live that down,' Cowell recalled, 'I usually struggle to get my projects off the ground - the talent show format has always been an acquired taste with the viewing public and always will be - but I thought I'd at least pull in a round 200. I probably would have done too if it wasn't for that cheating bastard Paxman,' he continued, referring to recent allegations of 'autotuning': the practice of 'tweaking' a contestant's answers to make them seem more erudite.
'The X Factor may well cater for a minority of viewers,' he admitted, 'but while not everyone is interested in watching me belittling would-be pop starlets while they sing their hearts out in an attempt to gain a lucrative recording contract, putting us up against such high-brow populist BBC2 fare is not only unfair but downright damaging. I mean, Leona Lewis singing 'A Moment Like This', or Gail Trimble on Pre-Raphaelite tapestry - it's a no-brainer isn't it?'
Cowell, 50, has revealed that he 'practically had to beg' the BBC to consider a change in time slot. 'I told them how niche programs such as the X Factor have a hard enough time in today's world of competitive TV and how we don't stand a chance against such a popular behemoth like University Challenge, but they didn't seem to care. They have this obsession with competing with us - they're being pathetic, childish and are doing a disservice to people who pay the licence fee. Although to be fair, the same can be said for the contestants, and indeed the judges, on the X Factor as well.'