The X Factor “Used Secret Coding System For Contestants, Including E and PKO”

The former British reality TV juggernaut The X Factor is under fire, with former staff revealing that producers used a secret coding system to highlight contestants with the “potential to kick off.”

During the BBC podcast, Offstage: Inside the X Factor, one former production employee described coding including “E for entertaining, then PKO for potential kick-off.”

More from Deadline

They added: “PKOs were those who might fight back, yell or drop a mic in annoyance. We all remember the time where the girl punched her best friend. Any sense of that? You put them straight through.”

The X Factor aired for 17 years following its debut in 2004, and made stars of bands including Little Mix and One Direction, and solo artists Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke.

The Times of London reports that the podcast raises more questions about the quality of care accorded to participants in the hit show, including making them sign contracts without due diligence, and encouraging tears from those who were rejected.

TV regulator Ofcom introduced new rules in 2020 to enforce better care and protection for members of the public in TV reality shows. Fremantle, the production company behind The X Factor, responded that staff were trained to spot those participants suffering with mental health difficulties, and that robust support systems were always in place for contestants, both during their time on the show and afterwards.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.