For Love of Shame or Fame-CNIB I Factor Critique


By Johnny ST. Tai

In 2009, the Canadian Institute for the Blind, here on referred to as CNIB, started an event that blanantly copied the style of American/Canadian Idol-
may be it on a much smaller scale. Called the I Factor, this event is now in its third year, and is so side-lined that even CNIB’s own staffs- those are
not directly involved with the program, aren’t inclined to discuss it. The particulars of the event can be found at:

but here are the basic facts: All CNIB clients across Canada who are blind can enter a five minutes video, or MP3 recording, upload it onto the website,
and these uploaded materials can be voted by anyone who listen/watch, in addition to being judged by a group of unnamed judges who are “supposed to be” authorities in this matter. Ten people will be chosen to get shipped to a special location, train for a week, and compete for the first place which comes
with an assortment of prizes that does not include and recording contract or cash. Sound impressive? I say ye nay…

The first year’s contest yielded barely 30 contestants, and bear in mind, we’re talking all over Canada here. The voting was a big joke, anyone who got
a mind could sit at home all day and crank the vote up for them selves- there was no varification of any kind during voting. What is came down to was that, if you were honest and played by the book, you didn’t get in. Several notable musicians signed up to give this newly created event its leg up- and all were absent from the final round, beaten by those with little or no musical experience. I shall not name these people, for I do not wish to offend those
who I have a personal respect towards, but sufficed to say, these are people who have been publically admired and recognized, and are professional in every sense of the word.

On its second year, I Factor called up those who did not make “the cut” in the previous year, boasting a better system, better voting, and all around a
much improved year, and encouraged them to give the event another chance. Some of the musicians mentioned above returned, lured in by the promise of a more fair game. The so-called improved voting system was that this time around, one had to pay to vote- which meant that, if you had a big credit card and were willing to sit before the computer for eight hours, you could crank your vote to the top…again… The judges were still not named, still “supposed to be” authorities, and the grand prize still included neither contract or cash. The result was just as bad as the previous year- though this time around they did get nearly 50 contestants.

Now into its third year, the contest again boasts of an improved system, but to those who are note-worthy and were rejected, it seems enough is enough.
On top of it all is the bleak fact that the winners of the previous years have not seem to have gained any notoriety for their achievements- making one
question just what is the point of it all. If this is just about raising money for CNIB and its own public exposure, then wouldn’t it be fair for them
to say something like, “This event is purely for the benefit of CNIB and not talent related. Those who are serious about music, please look elsewhere,”
up front?

Aside from the glitched voting system, faulsified press, and other aforementioned issues, the event has more problems to offer. First of all, the entry
of a video clip is not very realistic for most people with vision loss. One can just imagine how pissy it’d be for a blind person to try to work a webcam
while performing his/her musical piece- assuming that they even had a webcam to begin with. Of course one can always ask a friend to help, but that’d take time to arrange, and said friend has to be willing and equipped for the task. Oh yes, one can always just enter a mp3 file instead of a video clip, but
honestly, which would get votes easier on the website? How do they even varify that the person singing in the mp3 file is really the person who submits
it? Another problem being that, those who have strong financial supports would be able to record/film professionally- putting those of smaller pocketbooks at a definite disadvantage. In the end, it comes down to who has more money and time, and not who is the better performer.

Through a bit of personal research, talking to past contestants, I have uncovered yet another disturbing side of this event. All those who did not make
it into the final received a phone call from an appointed person from CNIB, explaining to them why they didn’t make the cut, while expressing their “deepest” regret regarding the final decision. This is all well and good; except, every one of those phone call included the caller saying exactly the same things, in the same order, using the same words- no doubt reading from a prepared script meant to pacify the “losers.” It is hard to say that if the caller even knew what this thing was about, and from what others have told me, they definitely did not sound all that regretful.

To cap this off, here is an email sent by CNIB to all contestants. I’ve erased the names of the parties sending and receiving the email, but here it is
for your own judgement and appraisal.

“Date: Monday, June 14, 2010 8:41 AM

Subject: The i Factor – Voting is open!

Hi contestant,

Congratulations! You are officially entered in this year’s The i Factor contest!

Voting is now open! So vote now and vote often. Each vote helps you get one step closer to the training camp at Lake Joe and an opportunity to perform at the semi-finals in hopes of winning a spot in the finals held in Toronto.

To vote for yourself, simply go to and click on the Video Gallery button at the top. Entries are ordered alphabetically, so scroll through to find your name and click “vote”. It’s that easy!

To get even more votes, forward this email to all your friends and family and ask them to vote for you!

Make sure you’re one of the top ten semi-finalists by sending this email to all your biggest fans. Voting is important! The top ten semi-finalists will
be selected by a panel of independent judges based on the public votes received, musical talent, audience appeal, entertainment quality, personal style,
and stage presence.

Remember that votes are $1 each or $20 for 50 votes. And you can vote as many times as you like!

Good luck in The i Factor!

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Communications Coordinator
T: 416-486-2500 ext. XXXX

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