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Britain's Game Show Bombshell - March 20

Now the British know how we felt after Charles Van Doren admitted he got the answers from the producers of "Twenty-One" in the 1950's.

A scandal is threatening the validity of call-in interactive programming in Britain. In a March 8, 2007 article in Media Life Magazine, Heidi Dawley detailed how allegations that winners were either pre-selected or even faked. Shows like "You Say, We Pay", "Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway", "BBC’s Saturday Kitchen" "X-Factor" (Simon Cowell’s show in the UK) and even Endemol UK’s "Brainteaser" have been tarnished in someway by either overcharging or not telling the viewers a show was not live and to vote on the outcome.

Even the BBC’s Blue Peter, a long running kids show admitted this week that a winner was faked in a November 27, 2006 incident involving a money raising effort for children in Malawi. The Times of London reported on March 15, 2007 that the regulator Ictsis and the channel are reeling from the allegations.

So what does that mean for shows here and abroad. Let me take the UK first. To me, it seems that every winner in any show that has an interactive element from X Factor, Fame Academy, Big Brother UK, and yes–Pop Idol is now tainted. Do we really truly know what the vote counts were in these programs, or who even truly won? The programs could have thrown out vote results to have the person they want to win do so. Am I saying it’s true? I don’t know, but after these scandals, you have to question the validity of the presented results. And you have to wonder how Britons will actually believe that a winner isn’t truly a winner...from the smallest interactive quiz to the biggest reality shows...everything now stinks.

But I think the interactive market here is safe—for the most part anyway. The UK regulators would be smart and proactive if they did what most, if not all of the interactive games of US shows do...use the internet as a free way of entering. GSN, NBC, CBS, and other have a way to enter these contests without having to pay hundreds of dollars via texting (See Gordon Pepper’s State of Play from December 1, 2006 for the idiocy of just using your text).

However, and this is where I think the British voting scandal may have an effect, I think more shows will have to show vote totals. I believe that the voting percentages were only shown twice in American Idol history. There is a certain segment of the population who believes that most interactive reality programmed is skewed in favor of a contestant one way or the other. We hear it every year with Idol. If you show the vote totals, things will appear more on the up and up.

The British have to act quickly. If they don’t, their TV interactive market, which made $200,000,000 in 2005 including quiz shows, will lose a lot of their money and more importantly the public took the US at least 10 years before that was regained after Van Doren.

How long do the Britons have to wait?

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2007 Game Show NewsNet