Backstage judge drama dominates as 'American Idol' nears climax
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Viewers are gearing up to crown the first female winner of "American Idol" in six years, but the biggest drama at the once-dominant Fox TV singing contest is taking place backstage over which of the celebrity judges will be voted off.
Audiences for what was the most-watched TV show in the United States for eight years have slumped to new lows in the current 12th season, despite the addition of singers Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban to the judging panel.
Veteran record producer Randy Jackson, the only member of the panel to have been with the show since it started in 2002, announced on Thursday that he was quitting after viewers vote for their winner next week.
Jackson's announcement came a day after entertainment website TheWrap reported that Carey, Minaj and Urban would not be asked back, along with the show's longtime executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe.
TheWrap.com said that Fox television was turning against paying huge salaries for big-name judges, only to see ratings fall.
Fox and production company FremantleMedia on Thursday declined to comment on the overhaul reported by TheWrap that have overshadowed the battle between singers Angie Miller, Candice Glover and Kree Harrison to reach the two-part finale.
Carey, one of the world's best-known recording artists, is getting a reported $17 million salary, with rapper Minaj pulling in about $12 million and country singer Urban around $7 million a year for their jobs on the contest.
Audiences for "American Idol" have fallen to around 12 million viewers per episode in recent months, compared to about 30 million during the show's heyday in 2006 and 2007. Continued...