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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Fans query Fame Academy deals
by Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Fame Academy contestant Carolynne Good
Carolynne Good has a publishing deal with BMG
Fame Academy fans have complained after four contestants with industry experience got through the show's first heat on Saturday.

Carolynne Good and Alistair Griffin have existing songwriting deals, while Louise Griffiths and Gary Phelan were previously in groups that had record contracts.

But a spokeswoman for the BBC show said that none of the four had current record deals and there were no rules to say those with industry experience could not enter the competition.

"We are just trying to put forward the people with the most talent," she said.

The show's production company Endemol admitted it had asked music companies to put forward their most talented prospects for this year's show.

But it said those with previous experience had to go through exactly the same audition processes as everybody else.

The first seven of 25 finalists played for the public vote on Saturday's BBC One show.

Where, Fame Academy, are the waiters and buskers desperate for their breaks?
Morat, UK

The remaining students will be picked from three more heats during the next 10 days.

They will then enter the house and begin competing for a full record contract with Polydor.

This is the second series of the show. Scottish singer David Sneddon was voted winner of the first after performing a new song each week.

His prize included a 1m record deal and the chance to live the lifestyle of an international pop star, including a top-of-the-range car and a luxury London flat.

Of this year's students, Griffiths, 25, girlfriend of racing driver Jenson Button, was in girl group Orchid who originally recorded the song Sound of the Underground.

But they did not release it and it went onto be a number one hit for Girls Aloud.

There's no-one there that's there because they were delivered to us by a record company
Charlie Gardner
Good has a songwriting deal with music publishing company BMG, and has reportedly written a song for boy band A1.

Griffin, described as an "indie songwriter and busker" by the show, has a songwriting deal with Perfect Songs, run by acclaimed producer Trevor Horn.

And Phelan was in a boy band called 3NM who had an independent record deal and supported Steps and Atomic Kitten in front of 20,000 fans.

Endemol spokesman Charlie Gardner told BBC News Online the artists put forward by publishers and record companies got no special treatment.

The judges at the auditions were not told about their backgrounds, he said.

Fame Academy hopefuls
The 25 finalists will be whittled down to 13 students
"We absolutely went to every single source we could find throughout the country to get the most talented people there are out there."

Everyone had to go to an audition and was judged purely on their performances at those auditions, he said.

"There's no-one there that's there because they were delivered to us by a record company or a publishing company."

But readers have e-mailed BBC News Online to say those with their feet in the door of the music industry should not be allowed to take part.

"Where, Fame Academy, are the waiters and buskers desperate for their breaks?" wrote one viewer, Morat, from the UK.

"We don't want to watch people who've already co-written number one singles or bagged multi-millionaire sportsman boyfriends."

Voting 'problems'

Another, called Viv, wrote: "I don't think it's fair that two of the contestants who got in are already successful songwriters.

"I thought that the point of Fame Academy was to teach wannabes these skills."

Another, Rob, said: "The contenders this time are on a completely different level... in fact they are almost too good."

Other viewers e-mailed to say that they were not able to vote for LaDonna Harley-Peters, a 22-year-old gospel singer who was eliminated after coming in the bottom two of the public vote.

Planning permission

Mr Gardner said there were "absolutely no" technical problems with the voting.

Meanwhile, Endemol are to submit a new planning application to Camden Council for the use of the Fame Academy mansion after it was revealed that they did not have the correct permission.

They need to get approval to use it as a TV studio and permission to make changes to a listed building.

There is a "legal possibility" that the council could force them to stop using the building, but they would be "reluctant" to do so, a spokesman said.

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