Forget the Florida recount (both in 2000 and the inevitable sequel later this year). The country's biggest voting scandal involves American Idol, says Broadcasting & Cable:
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.
While overzealous fans have accused Fox of tampering with results, one fact is indisputable: Technology is thwarting democracy on American Idol. Power-dialers can skew the vote. Text-messagers have an unfair advantage. And potential hackers have a powerful new incentive to alter the vote tallies: betting on the outcome through Internet gambling sites. Despite fans' repeated accusations of inaccurate results, Fox is sticking with a voting system vulnerable to serious manipulation and tampering.
Certainly something has to explain the way the votes have gone this season. It couldn't simply be the tuneless taste–or the predilections of presumably highly motivated teen-girl viewers–could it?