Universal Music U.K. is joining forces with national broadcaster Channel 4, handset maker Sony Ericsson and telecoms giant Orange for a new unsigned, multi-media talent quest in the United Kingdom.

The "mobileAct unsigned" winning act will receive a recording deal with Universal's A&M Records in Britain.

The competition, which has garnered 1,700 entries, is to appear on Channel 4, T4 and E4 channels in Britain from October.

A panel has been assembled comprising industry executives, music experts and artists. Simon Gavin, head of A&M Records U.K., Blur bassist Alex James and BBC Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley are among the panelists, who will pass or fail bands.

The two finalists will face-off in a live decider on Dec. 23. Viewers can cast votes via a Website or WAP to decide the ultimate winner.

"The exposure from this will be huge. I think that is key," Gavin tells Billboard.biz. "We can bypass two years of artist development in one swoop. The reach for this is quite incredible."

The prize-winner, explains Gavin, will enter into the studio within 24 hours of the final to cut a single, which will have a January release. An album will follow.

A&M Records U.K. was resurrected a year ago. Its current roster includes the Hours, Patrick Wolf, and The Horrors. "It's about U.K. signings really, and about investment in new talent," he says of the revitalized label, "and it was about keeping a small, but functional and exciting roster. Whoever wins this competition will really be part of the future of A&M."

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