Last week's story on the flawed American Idol voting system ("American Idol Outrage: Your Vote Doesn't Count," May 17, page 1) brought an avalanche of letters from fans, many of whom have been frustrated trying to vote. Here's a sample:
Next Quiz-Show Scandal?
Editor: Excellent article on the AI voting process. I can see it progressing to the level of the quiz-show scandals of the '50s. I do take issue with statements in the final paragraph: "When loyal viewers like [the one quoted in the story] start turning away, that's fewer sets of eyes watching the screen and fewer consumers buying the CDs." While this is true, the only important demographic is the Nielsen family, which makes or breaks the success of any program.
Editor: I just read Deborah Starr Seibel's article concerning voting on American Idol. Her reporting was very good, but I think she overlooked some very important data that would have allowed her to push the evidence to its logical conclusion.
I'm fully convinced that the whole show is rigged and orchestrated precisely to generate controversy, attention, and, accordingly, sales.
There is considerable evidence for this. Seibel provided some; over the past few weeks, I have made several other observations that undermine the show's basic premises (e.g., it can't be live, it supplements its coverage with alternate taped performances of the same songs, the band is not playing the music behind the singers at times, etc.).
In any event, it is clearly a conflict of interest to have the major advertiser of the show (AT&T) be responsible not only for the text messages but also the overall results. ...
It's about business in the end ... about making that money, but that money is generated by the show's popularity, which hinges on the assumption that it's live and, more importantly, that my vote counts. If, indeed, Fox has so blatantly lied to the public on either front, then one would hope that they pay dearly for it.
It's the Phone Company's Fault
Editor: Your own story shows American Idol
has clean hands:
"American Idol, the wildly successful talent show based on the democratic premise that viewers cast ballots for a winner, has a serious voting problem. Interviews with telephone companies, data consultants, federal agencies, and fans expose a flawed system in which tens of millions of votes are potentially lost. Indeed, evidence shows that the only people choosing the next American Idol
are 'the ones lucky enough to get through—or skilled enough to get around—tremendously overtaxed phone lines.'"
If you want to blame someone, blame the phone company.
Just more distortions from the press.
Let's Turn the System Around
Editor: I agree with you 100% that the voting system is flawed. A quick fix would be for America to vote each week not for their "favorite" but for their "least favorite." Let the voters kick off the least talented singer.
Theoretically, this should work at least until it got down to the final two. At that point, the idiots you write about in your article could conceivably vote for the person who had the most talent to be kicked off, leaving their "idol" to be crowned.
should be renamed "American Controversy"!
One Idol, One Vote
Editor: So, why not limit the vote to one per person? The answer may be money. Says AT&T's Linda Lungo [quoted in the article], "One of the requirements [AT&T and Fox] discussed early on was whether they wanted it to be one vote per person or whether it didn't matter. And they said, 'It doesn't matter, vote as many times as you want. It would be more expensive [to limit the voting] because we have to tally it and eliminate all of the [multiple] votes.'"
This is an absolutely bogus response from AT&T and Fox. There's little doubt the votes are being captured in a simple database. As a former database developer, I can assure you that AT&T's database developers are more than capable of sorting the called-in and texted-in votes and then eliminating all duplicate caller numbers/IDs so that only one vote is counted for that number/ID. Any rookie developer can do this with his or her eyes closed. It's a no-brainer and costs virtually nothing to either create the few lines of code required to do this or to run the routine on their processor.
Their excuses are laughable, and the recent results on the show have led my wife and I to conclude their results are simply not accurate. Our prediction is, if the current trend continues, the show will not run more than two more years, if that. As soon as enough viewers lose faith in the results (repeatedly), the show's ratings will plummet, and that will be the end of what was a terrific show.
All because they couldn't throw out duplicates. Sheeeesh...
Fox Can Afford To Fix It
Editor: Since I do lots of voting in my efforts to support Mr. Aiken, I know that both online and phone votes can be and are tracked and blocked automatically. For example, for phone voting on the video countdown of MTV's TRL, we can only place three calls per phone during a set time period. If we forget our count and get through a fourth time on the same phone, voicemail tells us. For online voting on countdowns, some sites track the address of the voting source and refuse a duplicate entry.
Implementing these methods would eliminate scams such as power voting. Star Search
does something similar; is Fox so much poorer than CBS that they can't afford the one-time cost to implement it? Arguing "expense" for not making voting worthwhile is totally unacceptable when a show is making a making a fortune and audience voting is the hook!
Thank you for a very interesting and informative article.
"I Feel Disenfranchised"
Editor: Finally, someone is bringing the truth to life (or rather print) about that show. Like the viewer in the story, I feel disenfranchised from the show as far as the voting goes. I also tried for hours last season to vote for Clay Aiken but was unable to get through. This year, I had no intention of voting because I know that my vote doesn't count. They encourage people to vote more than once. How can that be fair?
I have written the show and suggested Internet voting; then a greater number of people will be able to vote. It falls on deaf ears, probably because of the sponsor who wants everyone to get "text messaging" (I heard people who have that have no problem voting).
A lot of people have become totally disgusted with that show since last week's voting. Thank you for bringing this to light in your magazine.