Rebecca Ferguson has claimed she was so badly bullied while working in the music industry that she sparked fears she would end her life.
The singer, 36, who finished runner-up on The X Factor in 2010, has previously campaigned for the introduction of a regulatory body for the music industry, which would work to ensure artist welfare.
She has also called for media watchdog Ofcom to conduct an investigation into reality TV shows to ‘ensure the future safety of contestants’.
And Rebecca has now spoken of the heartbreaking situations she found herself in as she was cornered into certain situations, claiming that in one instance she was heavily influenced into signing a complicated contract which she knew she’d regret.
She explained to The Times: ‘I have been in positions in this industry where people were so worried about how badly I was being bullied that they thought I was going to take my own life.’
Heartbreaking: Rebecca Ferguson, 36, has claimed she was so badly bullied while working in the music industry she sparked fears she would try to end her life
Rebecca recalled being handed ‘a contract the size of the Bible without any chance to read it’.
She said: ‘I remember… being told to sign, literally there were hands on my shoulders and I was thinking, “I’m going to regret this later.”
‘But when you’re 23, working-class, a single mum with two kids and you think the show is the opportunity of a lifetime – you do what you think is best.’
While Rebecca has signed ‘multiple NDAs’ (non-disclosure agreements), she has spoken out in the hope of forcing some change.
On Wednesday, Ferguson posted on her Twitter account a screenshot of an email which she said she sent to ITV and Ofcom in 2021 making a ‘formal complaint’ in relation to the treatment of contestants on reality shows but said ‘my concerns appeared to be fobbed off’.
‘I was refused by ITV and OFCOM, no investigation was taken place and my concerns appeared to be fobbed off,’ she wrote.
‘I am open to communication should they now wish to follow up with my private complaint now that I have made my complaint public.’
She cited reasons for her complaint relating to contestants being ‘mentally manipulated and abused whilst having mental health problems’ and being ‘reduced to tears due to pressure/bullying’.
Change: The singer has previously campaigned for the introduction of a regulatory body for the music industry, which would work to ensure artist welfare (pictured on The X Factor in 2010, on which she finished runner-up)
The singer also added that her complaint was in relation to contestants being ‘forced into contracts without independent legal advice’ and having to sign with a management company with ‘no freedom of choice’.
Within the letter, Rebecca said she was making the complaint as she is ‘very concerned about the future contestants and their welfare’.
She wrote: ‘Although my life has moved on and my career is still thriving, I am very concerned about the future contestants and their welfare.
‘I believe that Ofcom needs to conduct an urgent inquiry to ensure the safety of contestants and ensure adequate safeguarding measures are put in place to protect future contestants on these shows.’
An Ofcom spokesperson said that they did reply to Rebecca and met with her virtually in 2021.
‘We listened carefully to the extent of her concerns about the treatment of contestants during her time on The X Factor in 2010,’ a statement read.
‘During these exchanges, we explained our powers and how our broadcasting rules apply in detail. We confirmed that new rules introduced to protect participants in programmes were not applicable to programmes broadcast before April 5 2021.
‘We also clarified that our statutory remit, as set by Parliament, means that our fairness rules do not extend to contractual matters or conditions imposed by broadcasters on participants, and only to content as broadcast.
Speaking out: Rebecca tweeted screenshots of the email she sent to ITV about her experiences
‘We suggested to Ms Ferguson possible routes to escalate her complaints to ITV and the appropriate authorities.’
A statement from ITV said the broadcaster was ‘committed to having in place suitable processes to protect the mental health and welfare of programme participants’.
‘We have continued to evolve and strengthen our approach, and we expect all producers of commissioned programmes to have in place appropriate procedures to look after the mental health of programme participants as well as their physical safety,’ a statement read.
‘Those processes and procedures will differ from programme to programme, to ensure that the welfare of all participants in ITV programmes is appropriately safeguarded.
‘Whilst the practical detailed processes required to manage participant welfare in each programme must sit with producers themselves, ITV as a broadcaster and commissioner of content provides guidance on what we consider to be best practice: in the selection of participants before filming, in supporting them during filming, and in continued support up to and after the broadcast of the programme.’
ITV added that in its correspondence with Rebecca it had stressed that contestant welfare was of the ‘highest priority’, as reflected in its Duty of Care Charter and ‘detailed guidance’ – introduced in 2019.
‘ITV responded to Rebecca with information provided to us by the producers, detailing their arrangements regarding welfare, aftercare, legal advice, and management, at the time of her participation,’ the statement read.
Following her success on The X Factor, Rebecca went on to release four albums and became a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women.
Her debut album Heaven, released in 2011, peaked at number three on the UK albums chart.
The singer also met with former culture secretary Oliver Dowden in April 2021 to discuss discrimination in the music industry, a meeting which she described at the time as ‘very productive’.
Her recent claims come after ITV instructed a barrister to carry out an external review of the facts following Phillip Schofield’s departure from This Morning.