The Bridesmaids actor Chris O'Dowd says he is a "big x factor fan" though feels for black contestants because the "the viewing public is so racist." The 34-year-old made the comment during an interview to the Radio Times, saying, "Generally my favourites go out in the first few weeks and, of course, because the viewing public is so racist, all the black, strong singers go out in round five."

Chris O'DowdChris O'Dowd Thinks YOU'RE A RACIST, X Factor Viewer.

Last year's contestant Hannah Barrett had received racist abuse while appearing on the show and spoke out about the importance of addressing the issues of race and appearance in the music industry.

Simon Cowell's talent show has produced several black stars including Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke and JLS, though there have certainly been occasions when talented black performers faced a consistently disinterested voting public. 

Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote - a body set up to promote racial justice in public life - said O'Dowd had raised a valid point.

"I wouldn't describe voters as racist," he said, "but there's something more subtle going on which makes it harder for contestants with a 'darker' physical complexion to win public support. Generally the 'blacker' the artist is, the harder it is for the public to warm to them."

Chris O'DowdChris O'Dowd Began His Career in 'The I.T Crowd'

It was announced this week that Simon Cowell would return to the judging line-up of the UK version of the X-Factor after Fox cancelled the stateside version after three seasons. Cheryl Cole is also rumoured to be considering a return.