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Voting time doubled for ‘Idol’ finale

Producers trying to counter the problem of jammed phone lines.
/ Source: Reuters

“American Idol” plans to double the amount of phone voting time for next week’s hotly anticipated finale to counter the problem of jammed lines as millions of callers try to get through.

Fox TV and “American Idol” producers, whose voting procedures have been questioned after two shock exits from the wannabe pop star contest, said viewers would have four hours to call in or text message their votes after the May 25 face-off between the final two singers.

They also defended the fairness of the voting system and said that “power dialers” who set up repeat calls for one contestant “can be identified and discounted.”

“An independent company manages and tallies the (“American Idol”) votes each week ensuring fairness. The reporting systems used are secure and there are multiple fail safes to ensure that the figures reported are accurate,” Fox TV said in a statement.

The magazine Broadcasting & Cable reported this week that technology was thwarting the ultimate experiment in show business democracy because phone lines were so overtaxed that millions of voters were unable to get through.

The magazine also claimed that power dialers were able to skew the votes and votes sent by text-message had an unfair advantage because they use higher-capacity digital technology than analog phone lines.

Broadcasting & Cable Editor-in-Chief Max Robins said Tuesday his publication was not suggesting the network or producers were deliberately manipulating the vote.

“This is not a quiz show scandal,” Robins told Reuters. “They’re getting the votes the best they can given the system they’ve got, but technology is thwarting democracy on ‘American Idol.”’

In its statement Fox said, “It has always been our plan for next week’s finale to open the lines for an unprecedented four-hour voting period to alleviate congestion.”

“American Idol”, now in its third season, has been a huge ratings success attracting more than 20 million viewers and an equivalent number of recorded votes each week.

Jasmine Trias, Fantasia Barrino and Diana DeGarmo are still in the running for a recording contract and instant stardom. But the surprise departures of strong singers Jennifer Hudson last month, and La Toya London last week while shakier singers stayed in the competition put the voting system under renewed scrutiny.

“American Idol” producers urge viewers to vote often and en masse to ensure their favorites stay in the competition.

“While acknowledging that dedicated fans may be unhappy with the outcome, the system only reports the decision of the voting public,” Fox TV and the show’s producers said.