Cheap website sparks fears millions of X Factor votes could be cancelled

PRODUCERS of the X Factor have denied a new service offering cheaper voting on the internet is affecting the TV show's results.

Thousands of viewers have used since it launched in September, avoiding the 35p calls from land lines – and "considerably more" from mobiles – to vote on the show's performers each week.

It has emerged that regulator Ofcom met TV chiefs last week amid concern that X Factor results have been hijacked and voting on other programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing could also be affected.

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Television chiefs are alarmed viewers could bypass tight controls surrounding the official voting system, putting the validity of the results into question.

Irish viewers are not allowed to vote in the poll, but can use the website. The website said 12 per cent of the 50,000 viewers who have used it are from Ireland.

Concerns have been raised that the entire vote might need to be cancelled, forcing ITV to make costly refunds to millions of people who have voted.

An X Factor spokeswoman said a "small number" of votes – "generally less than 1 per cent of the vote" were cast through the free2call website.

Checks were in place to ensure the votes were routed to the correct numbers, she added.

"The integrity of our voting systems is of paramount importance and we are confident there has been no possibility of free2call votes affecting the overall result," she said.

Mark Hillman, the website's chief executive, said he was "disappointed" to learn of the meeting between television executives and Ofcom.

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He said the company would take the points raised "seriously" and welcomed guidance to ensure the service was compliant.

Mr Hillman said: "We have tried to do everything we can to keep them happy. We are very open and transparent and would be happy to show them how our systems work."

Mr Hillman said it would not be in the company's interests to fail to route people to the contestants they wanted to vote for.

He said: "We absolutely agree that vote integrity must be maintained and we would be very sad to see the entire X Factor voting service withdrawn.

"Whenever we place a vote with X Factor we do so with the hope that the data will be treated fairly and that the vote will help a contestant to remain in the competition a little bit longer."

Jamie Archer was booted off the show last night after failing to win the public vote with his rendition of Queen's The Show Must Go On.

He and Lloyd Daniels came bottom of the scoreboard for the public vote and so faced a sing-off.

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But after the judges decision resulted in a tie it was left up to the public to make a final decision for the fourth week running. Once again twins John and Edward managed to make it through to another round.


THE website uses sponsorship to allow voters to call a local-rate number and avoid premium rates.

They then listen to a 15-second advert by a company or charity which pays the cost of forwarding the call to an X Factor 09 premium rate line so the caller can lodge their vote.

The RSPCA sponsored 10,000 votes for around 5,000 in the fourth live show, which gave 3,500 votes to Danyl Johnson.