LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British singer Cheryl Cole was reported on Wednesday to have been dropped as a judge on the U.S. version of TV singing contest "The X Factor".
Celebrity websites TMZ.com and Us Weekly quoted unnamed sources as saying Cole, 27, a member of the British pop band "Girls Aloud", was being replaced in the new Fox television venture created by Simon Cowell.
Fox said it had no information and representatives of Cole, Cowell and the show's producers did not return calls for comment.
The much-hyped "X Factor", created by former "American Idol" judge Cowell, is the highlight of Fox's fall TV schedule. It reunites Cowell with his old "Idol" sparring partner Paula Abdul and offers an unprecedented $5 million prize to the winner.
The judging panel was finalized just three weeks ago.
TMZ.com, quoting sources close to the production, said Cole was dropped because producers were worried that her strong northern English accent would be too difficult for American audiences to understand.
Cole is barely known in the United States, despite being a household name in Britain and a judge on the U.K. version of the hit television contest. But she had been one of Cowell's top choices.
A source close to Cole told Us Weekly; "it's true. She isn't on the show anymore. Everyone is gobsmacked (shocked). This came out of nowhere. She had already been tested countless times. Simon had nothing to do with it. This is the network's doing."
TMZ said Cole will be replaced by former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, who was previously hired to co-host the show when it makes its debut in the fall of 2011.
The celebrity line-up also includes record producer Antonio "L.A." Reid, Cowell himself, and British TV presenter Steve Jones as host.
Auditions before the judges began in Los Angeles on May 8 and have taken place in several other cities.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing By Nichola Groom