Sir Bruce Forsyth has criticised Simon Cowell, saying young acts on his Britain’s Got Talent show face “emotional damage” from the pressure of performing.
The showbiz veteran, who has been caught up in a war of words with Cowell, said he was a fan of the show but was worried about children being put on stage when they could not cope with rejection.
Writing in the Daily Mail, he said: “I really do think he should stop putting young children under the immense and possibly damaging pressure of performing on national television, not just in front of a live audience, but also before four very sharp judges.
“You can see that many of the adult performers find the experience traumatic, so what sort of emotional damage could it be doing to children who, for the most part, are only there because of the ambition of their parents and teachers?”
Sir Bruce recalled watching a young girl sing on one of Cowell’s shows a few years ago before she broke down in tears halfway through.
He said: “She was only 10 and clearly the occasion and the pressure just got to her, but I remember we were watching at home and I just turned to my wife, Winnie, and said ’This isn’t right; this shouldn’t be on television’.”
The entertainer, who is set to return to hosting duties on Strictly Come Dancing later this year, said it was very different to when he made his stage debut as a 14-year-old because he was “bottom of the bill in a really awful show” so there was not the same pressure to succeed.
And he said the “16 years of really hard slog round the variety circuit” that followed taught him how to cope with failure.
Sir Bruce said one solution was for Cowell to have one show for adult performers and another for children with “more modest prizes” and “more positive” judging.
He said: “There are enough tears in any child’s life; we certainly don’t need to add to them in the name of entertainment.”