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Tuning In to TV
Question of the Day
‘Idol’ creator sues for stake in rival ‘X Factor’
LOS ANGELES — The creator of “American Idol” filed a lawsuit late Wednesday against the show’s broadcaster and producer claiming they have reneged on a deal to give him a stake in a rival competition show that is about to premiere in the United States.
Producer Simon Fuller is seeking an executive producer credit and the appropriate fees once “The X Factor” - which was created by former “Idol” judge Simon Cowell - makes its U.S. TV debut Sept. 21. Mr. Fuller’s suit is against Fox Broadcasting Co. and the show’s production company, FremantleMedia North America.
Fox will air both “Idol” and “X Factor,” and FremantleMedia is producing both shows.
The lawsuit reignites long-standing tension among the forces that made “American Idol” one of the past decade’s most popular shows in the United States.
Mr. Fuller imported the format from Britain, where he launched “Pop Idol.” The U.S. version debuted in 2001 and featured Mr. Cowell as a judge whose biting remarks to contestants became a fixture and a ratings magnet.
Mr. Cowell created “X Factor” three years later; it also premiered in England.
That prompted Mr. Fuller to sue Mr. Cowell for copyright infringement, and according to his lawsuit, Fox and Fremantle stepped in to preserve “American Idol.”
Mr. Fuller’s lawsuit claims he settled the case in 2005 against Mr. Cowell after Fox and Fremantle promised him that “X Factor” would not air in the United States until 2011, Mr. Cowell would remain an “Idol” judge for five more seasons, and Mr. Fuller would be granted an executive producer credit on Mr. Cowell’s show if it ever aired in the United States.
“Despite the clear agreement to grant Fuller an executive producer credit and to pay him an executive producer fee, defendants have refused to honor their obligations and have further refused to negotiate in good faith,” the lawsuit states.
The case is unlikely to be settled for anything remotely as cheap as a song, with both sides releasing dueling statements hours after the case was filed.
“Mr. Fuller has not been hired, nor performed any duties, on the U.S. version of ‘The X Factor,’ ” Fox and Fremantle Media wrote in a joint statement. “His suit seeks payment and credit as an executive producer despite his neither having been approved by the required parties, nor hired, as such. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we expect to prevail.”
Mr. Fuller’s attorney, Dale Kinsella, called the companies’ position that Mr. Fuller needed to be approved as an executive producer on “X Factor” absurd.
“Fox is contractually obligated to approve Fuller as executive producer and compensate him accordingly, and it is because of the breach of the 2005 binding agreement that the case was filed,” Mr. Kinsella wrote in a statement. “Fox appears to be admitting openly that they have failed to honor the contract terms.”
An initial hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 7 in Santa Monica, Calif.
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