An investigation was launched today into claims of vote rigging on TV talent show Popstars: The Rivals.
The probe was initiated after a radio station was deluged with calls to its morning show from fans claiming they could not vote for their favourite hopeful.
Fans of the ITV1 series said they were unable to register their vote for Javine Hylton, who became the only contestant not to make the girls’ band in last night’s final.
Javine, a 20-year-old from west London, lost the final place in the girl group to Sarah Harding, a 21-year-old from Greater Manchester, after voting lines were kept open until the final moments.
The claims gathered momentum as more listeners to London radio station Capital FM phoned the station with similar stories.
Justin King, news editor at Capital Radio, said: “It has been a very busy morning.
“Presenter Chris Brooks was talking about Popstars when he started receiving calls from listeners saying they had dialled the number to vote for Javine but heard a recorded message saying thank you for voting for Sarah.
“Some people said they had tried again and again – stoking up votes for Sarah.
“More and more people then called in to the show reporting the same problem. We have now received about twenty calls.”
One listener told the station: “I saw that Sarah and Javine were the last two and I thought ‘this can’t be for real, I must vote for Javine’.
“I picked up the phone and dialled the number and got a busy line. I tried again and when I got through it said thank you for voting for Sarah. I thought ‘oh no I don’t want to vote for Sarah’, so I waited for the number to come up on screen and tried again and it said ‘you have dialled the wrong number’.”
Another listener said: “It said ‘thank you for calling you have voted for Sarah’ so I tried again and the same thing happened.”
A spokesperson from Popstars: The Rivals said: “We take this matter seriously and we are investigating the claims at the moment.”
Sarah joined 17-year-old Nicola Roberts from Runcorn; Cheryl Tweedy, 19, from Newcastle; Kimberly Walsh, 20, from Bradford; and 17-year-old Nadine Coyle from Derry in the new band called Girls Aloud.