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Does Your Vote Count?

Mar 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Two of TV’s most popular reality shows invite viewers to vote for the winners. Fox’s American Idol and CBS’s revival of Star Search have generated enormous publicity, but neither show goes out of its way to talk about exactly how the voting works. So we asked.
We started with Fox and that curious phrase repeated on “Idol” again and again: “The polls will be open for at least two hours after the show.” “At least?” Does that mean if there aren’t enough votes, or the wrong person is ahead, the voting will continue? “Not at all,” a Foxie told us indignantly. “It’s basically legal language that protects the network in case of pre-emption or affiliate schedule changes.”
Fox won’t reveal much else and declined to provide pictures of the count. “You can use a picture of any Dell server,” said a Fox spokesman.
We had to go to the back lot for the rest of the story. The primary reason for the “at least” is they actually open the phones three to five minutes before the final credits and needed language to obscure that. They typically get from 8 mil to 11 mil votes per show, which are counted by In Touch, a subsidiary of a British company that did the same thing in the United Kingdom on the original.
“Idol’s” ideology is straight-forward next to the “Star Search” system of Internet voting. Despite appearances and frequent announcements on the show, everyone except viewers in the Eastern time zone are completely disenfranchised. While CBS flashes “Recorded Previously” on the screen, it also blares prominently that the show is “live from Hollywood.”
A spokesman says voters from the Midwest to the West Coast are told their votes are not being recorded, he but admits that many people don’t seem to notice the sign that says “Voting closed.”