IAN HART: Was Britain’s Got Talent winning act wrong to make use of a ‘stunt dog’?

LOVE him or loathe him, Simon Cowell certainly knows what buttons to press with the nation’s television viewers.

Last week saw the live stages of Britain’s Got Talent, culminating with the grand final taking up two-and-half-hours of primetime Sunday night TV, with the first prize being £250,000 and a coveted place on the bill at the Royal Variety Performance.

The competition is separated into two parts, the first being the auditions, where apart from seeing the very good acts, which invariably all end up in the live stages, there are the excruciatingly bad acts that have the nation laughing at them, not with them.

While the whole thing evokes childhood memories of Hughie Green on Opportunity Knocks and the star-making New Faces, technology has also reared its ugly head. None more so than in the case of eventual runner-up, magician Jamie Raven, who mesmerised both judges and audience with his performances in the semi final and final. That was until various individuals up and down the country began analysing his act with the use of TV playback.

Clearly he’s not a wizard or an exponent of the dark arts, but obviously if you stop and start and replay his act in slow motion some of the illusion will be revealed. It would have been the same had they televised Houdini’s act, or put Siegfried and Roy under the microscope

The subsequent stick he received was a little unjust and whether or not it affected the phone poll result remains to be seen, but there could yet be a final twist in the whole saga. It now transpires that eventual winner, performing dog Matisse, was replaced half-way through the act by a ‘stunt dog’.

Clearly viewers weren’t told of this at the time, but had they been, would it have affected the final result?

Time will tell whether, after the media firestorm, the dog gets to keep the quarter-of-a-million quid, but as Mr Cowell has known all along, there is no such thing as bad publicity.