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Why AT&T didn't fix 'American Idol'

An outcry emerges after AT&T reps in Arkansas, home of winner Kris Allen, teach people how to send multiple text messages. But is Arkansas really that big?

Many of you will, perhaps, remember how Woz was very suspicious (and then suspiciously changed his mind) about the voting on "Dancing with the Stars".

Now we are tormented with cries that local AT&T representatives in Arkansas gave lessons in sending up to 10 simultaneous texts to people at "American Idol" viewing parties. The surprise winner (to some, at least) was Kris Allen from Arkansas.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Fox and the two companies that produce the show, FreemantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, denied that the "enthusiasm" of local representatives nefariously influenced the result.

After all, the "Idol" rule book states: "A weekly monitoring procedure will be in place to prevent individuals from unfairly influencing the outcome of the voting by generating significant blocks of votes using technical enhancements. The producers reserve the right to remove any identified 'power dialing' votes. Note that this applies to both toll-free and Text Messaging votes."

However, I have plowed through the whole of this rule book and can find no restrictions as to how many times you can actually vote.

The key word, therefore, is the word 'unfairly'.

CC JonDissed/Flickr

One has to assume the technology simply identifies multiple texts sent within nanoseconds of each other. Whereas the hands of normal human beings that would be voting have to at least pause to press send more than once.

Voting is open for a strict two-hour period after the show and only AT&T subscribers can vote by text. Everyone else has to call. There is even a little kink that those who happen to be outside of their phone's area code cannot vote.

So one has to wonder whether the actions of a few enthusiastic AT&T employees could really have swayed the results.

Strong rumors suggest the voting wasn't even close. So even if every single inhabitant of Arkansas voted 10 times, that would still only be around 28 million out of the allegedly 100 million votes cast.

And it's not as if this purported Arkansas cabal won't have been the only voting group out there. There is even a very fine site called "Vote For The Worst" which tries to get people to, indeed, use their cell phones to shoo in the least talented. Vote for the Worst is claiming that it put Allen over the top. Or under the bottom, depending on your perspective.

Naturally, one wonders about the wisdom of allowing people to vote multiple times. Money can be a wicked beast when trying to create reality show rules.

But it is surely far more likely that Arkansas' Allen, who was suitably middle-of-the-road and had never been in the bottom three, simply received far more votes than Adam Lambert, who hails from San Diego.

Lambert is the more original artist by far. But his black fingernails and rock diva personality are not so easily digested in the South.

And just in case none of you has noticed, only one "American Idol" winner has ever not come from the South. Yes, abstinence enthusiast Jordin Sparks from Arizona.

The fix, I fear, is out.