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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
BBC apologises to Academy hopeful
by Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News Online disability affairs reporter

The BBC has apologised to a disabled man who said he was discriminated against by the makers of BBC One talent show Fame Academy.

Xander Gibb
Xander Gibb: Wrote to Greg Dyke
Xander Gibb, 26, of Camberwell, south London, has a mobility impairment and is unable to queue for long periods.

He applied to take part in the current series of Fame Academy, but says he was put off from the outset.

He told BBC News Online that when he was trying to make arrangements for an audition he was informed that the house and studio were "not accessible" and that the programme "wasn't really for disabled people".

Mr Gibb says he was told to submit a tape instead but was turned down after it had been listened to.

He said: "This isn't sour grapes. I'm an experienced performer and I've done backing vocals for some established names in the business.

"I just wanted a chance to be judged as a singer, not as a disabled singer."

He has written to BBC director general Greg Dyke outlining his concerns and asking that the matter be investigated.

James Fox, Fame Academy
The show's winner will get a 1m record deal
The BBC has promised a full response once all the facts have been established.

In a statement, the BBC and Endemol (the makers of Fame Academy) said:

"Those wishing to audition for Fame Academy could either submit a tape or attend one of the open sessions.

"The judges listened to Xander's tape unaware that he was disabled but unfortunately his singing didn't reach the standard required.

"Without a name of the person Xander first spoke to it is hard for us to prove or disprove his allegations but we know it has upset Xander and for this we apologise wholeheartedly."

The BBC and other broadcasters in the UK recently signed a "manifesto" which commits them to increasing the presence of disabled people in the media.

But Mr Gibb says the reality is somewhat different.

Louise Griffiths, Fame Academy
Evictee Griffiths has been offered a Robbie Williams song
"TV companies say things about inclusion, but when they see me hobbling in that's usually the end of it. When I heard the BBC was supporting this initiative I was really encouraged."

And Mr Gibb says the BBC should pay more attention to the Disability Discrimination Act which is designed to protect disabled people.

"If they know the place they use is inaccessible they should choose somewhere else," he said.

  • The latest student to be voted out of the Fame Academy, Louise Griffiths, could still get her chance at pop stardom after Robbie Williams agreed to give her a song he had written.

    Williams, a friend of her racing driver boyfriend Jenson Button, offered Griffiths the song during a night out before the show began.

    Griffiths had jokingly asked if he had any songs she could record.

    After leaving the TV talent show, Griffiths said she was positive about the future and would be concentrating on her singing and songwriting career.

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