Telebettors pull the strings at American Idol
By paul
Earlier this month, when American Idol favorites Jennifer Hudson followed by La Toya London, were shown the door most American viewers were shocked. Miss London's ouster and the 'Idol' voting system are now taking the center stage, with several talk shows and publications such as Broadcasting and Cable digging deeper.

‘What we found is a system where the viewers can't really vote for the people they want to win the contest. There are potentially tens of millions of votes that are not being counted because the phone line simply can't handle that kind of demand,’ says reporter Deborah Starr Seiblel who's covering the story.

She says Internet gambling sites are also adding to the problem. The theory is that if you can bet on the outcome, there's an incentive for some to clog up the lines. ‘If you have money on Fantasia Barrino or Diana DeGarmo, you have more reason to power vote yourself, or worse, try to hire someone to hack into the system to actually change the tallies once they’ve been made.’

Broadcast industry observers say the show should abandon phones and move online, with viewers using pin number similar to an ATM card, which would make the system secure and would only allow you to vote once. They suggest, this will be the best way to tackle online and telebettors with vested interests.

‘The whole voting process is independently overseen by an independent body. Whatever people say about it, it's as honest as it can possibly be. We even vet it for speed dialing,’ argues Idol co-executive producer Ken Warwick. But Seibel says that unless the show overhauls the system, there could be problems for the show down the road. ‘I think what you’re going to find is if the show does not address the voting problem, people are going to be less inclined to watch. Certainly less inclined to vote and less inclined to buy the records,’ adds Sieblel.

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