Just to make it clear, I have not watched x-factor for many years, and apparently Cowell has mellowed. I have never seen BGT either. But I did watch x-factor for a number of years and gave up when I started to realise what it was.
The people who enter are split into two categories. The first one is those who have little actual talent, and will never make it in the music industry. For these, the show, the entire format is abuse. They are put up to be laughed at, nothing more. They are encouraged to think that they have more talent than they have, while everyone knows that they are not going to achieve much.
This is different form, say, The Voice - everyone on that who is shown could make it in the business somewhere. Every one is musically talented, even if they don't quite work for the particular show. But Cowell likes his freak show. That is one reason why I stopped watching.
The other category are those who do have some talent, who can sing, and who might achieve success in the business. Some of the winners are in this category, but not all.
The problem with them is that they are "Cowelled" - turned into standard pop song production machines. Even those who have real talent - like Alexandria Burke - are modelled to produce the "right" songs. the reason is that Cowell - and his like - are interested in making money out of the music industry. They are not interested in musical heritage or real talent. He forms the winners to produce money out of the industry machine.
There is no way that any of the great icons of music would ever have come out of this process. On the other side, none of the x-factor stars will be musical legends of the future - they will not be the next Bowie, Iggy, Lake, Emerson, whoever. And yet flooding the market with the Cowell-clones inhibits the development of these real icons and geniuses.
The fact that Cowell has so demeaned the music market to simply make money from it is what annoys me, what angers me about what he does. He is not in the business of finding talent - he wouldn't know talent if it slapped him around the head. He is in the business of making money, pure and simple.
But there is more, of course. Why is everything his fault? Because the x-factor voting has affected us all. The idea of voting for the joke, because it seemingly annoys Simon. Of course, it didn't really - it helped the rating for the show, so he was delighted. The idea of voting for the joke seems to have spread to the political arena too - making the "protest vote", because this is fun, and doesn't really matter. Except that, of course, it does. Because, underneath it all, there is someone else manipulating the system to make themselves more money.
The problem with Cowell is that he has normalised abuse, monetisation and "votes don't really matter" attitudes. Of course, it is not purely him, not all his fault, but he has some culpability. So maybe he has mellowed, but the damage may have already been done.