Following a story in The New York Times earlier this week that suggested AT&T may have swayed the results of American Idol, Fox Broadcasting and the show’s producers yesterday said that they were “absolutely certain” that voting was not unfairly influenced by free text-messaging services offered to fans of winner Kris Allen.
“Kris Allen is, without a doubt, the American Idol,” said a statement issued by Fox, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment.
AT&T, meanwhile, said it would advise its employees not to offer services that favor one contestant over another on Idol or similar shows, reports the NYT.
The earlier report said that AT&T representatives had offered free texting services and instructions in sending multiple, simultaneous text messages at viewing parties in Allen’s home state of Arkansas.
A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment to the NYT on the margin of victory that Allen held over the runner-up, Adam Lambert. But the Fox statement dismissed the possibility that the Arkansas parties had influenced the outcome of this year’s finale.
“We have an independent third-party monitoring procedure in place to ensure the integrity of the voting process,” the statement said. “In no way did any individuals unfairly influence the outcome of the competition.”
AT&T said the offers were not a corporate initiative but the work of “a few local AT&T employees” in Arkansas.
The company said that the Arkansas employees were “caught up in the enthusiasm of rooting for their hometown contestant” when they brought “a small number of demo phones” to the parties to allow people to send free text messages.
“Going forward we will make sure our employees understand our sponsorship celebrates the competition, not individual contestants,” the company said.
AT&T is one of Idol‘s biggest corporate sponsors. According to the NYT’s earlier reports, there appear to have been no similar efforts to provide free texting services to Lambert supporters who have flooded online chat boards with messages claiming irregularities in the competition’s voting since the show’s finale.
According to figures compiled by The Live Feed blog, the vote gap between Allen and Lambert amounts to one “that no amount of Arkansas viewing party voting could have given Lambert the win.”
If Fox’s previous two statements about the voting results are true (at least 100 million votes and a significant margin of victory), says TLF, even if the rogue phones generated a thumb-breaking 500,000 votes, such a surge would account for only .5% of the vote, which would only matter in the most squeaker of races.