It’s never happened here in America or the UK. If American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent or X Factor were caught rigging viewer votes to produce a specific winner, it would kill their respective franchises.
Now, producers for a popular K-pop television competition show Produce 101 were indicted by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office for business obstruction and fraud on Tuesday, reports Good Morning America. Interestingly, it was fans who brought discrepancies to the attention of authorities.
Produce 101 was a popular show on the Mnet cable channel, owned by CJ ENM, the largest music entertainment network in South Korea. Four seasons have aired ince 2016.
Fans chose the winners via mobile texts and online voting–except when producers rigged the voting results.
Ahn Joon-young, producer of all four Produce 101 seasons, and chief producer Kim Yong-beom allegedly fixed the final vote results in favor of specific contestants. according to the Prosecutors Office.
Six other people were indicted, including a producer for the program and five entertainment agency officials who are accused of bribing Ahn.
Ahn and Kim confessed to fixing contestant rankings for seasons 3 and 4 of the show during the investigation, according to Yonhap.
“We deeply apologize to viewers, fans, idol contestants and entertainment agency officials for arousing public criticism for the program. We are cooperating with the investigations and will take stern measures according to results,” Mnet said in an official statement regarding the case.
Investigators began looking into the vote-rigging allegations on the program after some fans raised doubts about the vote counts disclosed during the final competition of its most recent season this past July.
“I started having doubts when participants from large entertainment companies were shown more often on the show,” Jiyun Choi, who had attended the “Produce 101 Season 2” boyband WannaOne’s concert this year, said.
“I felt like my efforts of daily voting was betrayed. I was thrilled to find out that the member I rooted for made the debut team, but now I don’t know if it was a fair game,” Yooji Jeong, who was a fan of all 4 “Produce 101” series, told ABC News.
The high profile audition show has spawned popular K-pop groups, I.O.I, WannaOne, IZ*ONE and X1 but the latter two groups have stopped performing and touring as controversy has grown over the program.