Fame Academy was a televised competition to search for and educate new musical talents. The winner received a chance to become a successful music artist. The prize consisted of a £1m recording contract with a major record company, plus the use of a luxury apartment in London and a sports car for one year. It was broadcast by the BBC and co-produced by an Endemol company called 'Initial'. The format was originally created in Spain under the title Operación Triunfo, and had already achieved major success around the world (especially France) under the name Star Academy. Every week, depending on the perceived quality of their performances, contestants would be put into either "safe" or "danger" zones. Anyone in the latter had to undergo a system of voting by the other participants to determine which one would then be forced to leave.
The show was partly reality television, because the daily lives of the contestants could be watched through live streaming via Freeview. This was accomplished through the instalments of 'spycameras'. Coverage of the show was widely shown on BBC One, BBC Three, BBC Prime and the CBBC Channel.
The show was so successful that the BBC decided to screen a celebrity version in 2003 for Comic Relief. Comic Relief Does Fame Academy saw celebrities singing as students of the Academy with proceeds from the phone votes being donated to the charity. This was far more successful than the original show, and many believe its success secured the second series of the main programme.
The Comic Relief series returned in March 2007. It was announced by the BBC that Cat Deeley would not return because she was hosting So You Think You Can Dance. Patrick Kielty returned this time with co-host and host of the former spin-off show Claudia Winkleman.