American Idol Vote Controversy Proves Fox Should Release Totals After Competition is Done

It's been reported that staffers at AT&T -- a bigsponsor -- provided free text-messaging services at two parties supporting Allen in Arkansas.
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A few over-excited Arkansas AT&T employees gave fans of American Idol finalist Adam Lambert something new to grouse about, helping supporters of winner Kris Allen place "power texting" votes for him during the singing competition's widely-watched finale.

They also provided a another argument for something I've been advocating since the show's second season: A public release of the show's vote totals for review, once the season is done.

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette and the New York Times reported that staffers at AT&T -- a big Idol sponsor -- provided free text-messaging services at two parties supporting Allen in Arkansas.

(Another item for media wonks to consider; the Arkansas paper's story rests behind a pay wall -- it wasn't until the New York Times amplified the reporting in a story which could be widely linked on the Internet that Idol producers and AT&T issued statements. So do you want to get paid for stories, or do you want to have an impact?)

The Hollywood Reporter did the math, concluding that, if the 80 or so cell phones supposedly distributed by AT&T staffers were used to vote for him throughout the May 19 performance show, he would get a maximum of 96,000 text-messaged votes -- hardly enough to sway a competition that Fox said attracted 100 million responses.

Of course, since vote totals are not released to the public, we only have Idol's word that there were 100 million votes, or that their screening process filtered out bulk voting, or that the margin between the finalists was big enough that 100,000 or so votes wouldn't matter, anyway.

I understand why votes totals aren't released during the show; they would skew the competition by telegraphing which contestants are more popular than the others.

But once the competition is done, there seems to be little problem in releasing vote totals for the finalists, broken down by week, so the public could see how the competition progressed.

I'm not holding my breath on this one. But given the intense public interest -- and laws on the books against manipulating game shows -- there seems to be a potent argument for pushing Fox to disclose how its voting totals played out.

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