Singing shows are NOT fixed, we have insisted over and over again. Well, at least, in the free world they are not. The results of the most recent season of The Voice Kids Russia were voided after thousands of fraudulent votes were found to have rigged a win for a millionaire’s young daughter.
Complaints poured in after singer Mikella Abramova, aged 10, won with 56.5% of the phone-in vote, reports the BBC. The young artist is the daughter of pop singer Alsou and wealthy businessman Yan Abramov.
Channel One hired cyber security firm, Group-IB to examine the votes for Mikella Abramova, after the final of The Voice Kids, which is in its sixth season on Russian TV. Responding to complaints, Group-IB, an official partner of Interpol and Europol, inspected its voting technology. A company called SMS-servisy managed the voting.
“The interim results of the check confirm that there was outside influence on the voting, which affected the result,” a Channel One statement said (in Russian). Additionally, the voting scam on April 26 “must be the first and last time that anyone tries to control the audience’s choice,” said Channel One. But it added, “Children should not take the blame for actions carried out by somebody else. Each participant becomes a member of the big Voice family.” It remains unclear who was behind the scam.
More than 8,000 text messages were sent from about 300 phone numbers during the vote, according to investigators. A Group-IB statement said (in Russian) that sequential phone numbers had been used to send automated votes, “bots were used in this case.”
“More than 30,000 votes came in for one contestant from those phone numbers,” Group-IB said. Rival singers got no more than 3,000 votes each, Russia’s Kommersant Daily reported.
Mikella was reportedly a decent singer, but the overwhelming number of votes she received raised red flags. Also, her pop star mother, who has two million Instagram followers, had called openly for support. That in itself isn’t illegal. However, reports of factory workers being paid to vote added to viewer skepticism.
Channel One plans to celebrate “all the kids’ remarkable talent” with a special one-off show on May 24, “in which all the season finalists and the semi-finalists will perform,” it said.
A new voting mechanism will be in place before the next season of the talent show, the statement added. The fix seems obvious. Channel One needs to hire an independent company to audit the vote–maybe not one that can be bought off by the millionaire father of a contestant. Just saying!
Channel One says it will issue a full report on the scam later this month.