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John Simkin

American Idol: Was it Fixed?

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http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/news/story/0,...,107282,00.html

The competition is over, and Taylor Hicks has been crowned the new American Idol.

And out come the allegations of voting manipulation and outrage, reported the Washington Post.

The conspiracy theories are not new.

Since the first American Idol series in 2002, the reality talent show has hatched almost as many conspiracy theories as US president John F Kennedy's assassination in 1963.

And this season's competition was no different.

It began with host Ryan Seacrest announcing at the end of the competition that viewers would have 'at least four hours to vote'.

Idol fan sites picked up on this quickly.

PRECONCEIVED RESULT?

Did this mean Fox was keeping the lines open longer to achieve some preconceived result?

Fox's reply: Seacrest was imprecise and should have just said four hours, the typical window for a final vote.

Earlier, viewers had complained that their attempts to vote for rocker Chris Daughtry were misdirected to McPhee's voting line.

Then Daughtry was eliminated from the competition, leading to an online petition demanding a recount.

As of the results night, the petition had nearly 38,000 names, but no recount was in sight.

There has long been accusations of manipulation as to the order in which the contestants perform (the last spot is supposed to be the best as viewers tend to vote for the contestant they best remember).

And then some viewers have said that the judges' comments are unfair - a favoured performer might be praised for singing several songs in an identical style, but an out-of-favour contestant gets criticised for doing the same thing.

Another common criticism: That the show's producers manipulate things so as to get the most demographically diverse and attractive group of singers into the final rounds to pump up ratings.

And what does Fox have to say?

Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said in a statement: 'The producers and network have gone to great lengths to ensure the integrity of the voting process.

'America votes, an independent company calculates the tally and the show reports those results.'

Of course, it stands to reason that a show as popular as Idol - it attracted more than 30 million viewers - would definitely inspire passionate reactions.

CONSPIRACY TALK

But Fox has helped fuel suspicion by keeping its voting system secret.

The voting totals of the winning singers have never been revealed.

In the closely contested race between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken in Season Two, Seacrest offered three different figures for the margin of difference between them.

And controversy crops up every year as popular contestants get eliminated earlier than expected, sparking talk of vote-fixing or voting gone wrong - Remember Jennifer Hudson (Season Three) and Constantine Maroulis (Season Four)?

So things are apparently moving as usual in the American Idol universe as fan sites are filled with talk of conspiracy theories once again, even before Taylor Hicks has time to catch his breath and settle down for a well-deserved rest.

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