Thursday, May 20, 2004

IT'S ALL A FIX. OR A CON. OR SOMETHING. IT'S SOMETHING BAD: More woe over at American Idol, where the AP attempted to vote in the final of the current series. Surprise, surprise, all they got was busy tones. They managed to connect just four of the hundred calls they tried to place. Of course, telephone voting is a tricky thing to organise - back when British Television first tried it, the BBC weren't allowed to display the numbers on screen for the first few weeks of Bob Says Opportunity Knocks, until British Telecom were satisified that the wave of viewers eager to vote for that bloke who did the animal impressions wouldn't cause the entire British phone network to collapse. If you wanted to dial in early on, you had to buy the Radio Times to get the numbers.

The trouble is that anything like American Idol is going to generate an enormous number of votes, but they'll all come in a small envelope of time - so investment in the infrastructure to cope is never going to happen. (See also: selling all the Glastonbury tickets at the same time). It all adds a random element to the polling which, frankly, is probably better than leaving it Simon Cowell and Joe Six-Pack. They could just as well spin a large wheel to decide the winner, which would be prettier, but wouldn't raise as much cash for the networks.

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