Local News

'Idol' Phone Dilemma: Too Many Calls, Too Little Time

Posted May 20, 2004

— Fans call the shots on

"American Idol."

Contestants advance based on the number of calls they get.

Results this season have led many to question whether the show's phone network can handle all the callers trying to get through in just two hours.

After "American Idol" favorites Jennifer Hudson and La Toya London were voted off the show, suspicions were raised about the phone system.

Lawrence Harte, of Fuquay-Varina, was one of the millions who tried to get through. When he was unable to, the telecommunciations specialist started digging into the problem.

He says the "American Idol" dilemma is simple -- so many votes, so little time.

"They receive so many calls -- about 3,000 calls a second -- that if there's even a minute difference in the rate these calls are answered, then that means the 'American Idol' winner is the one whose answering machine is fastest," he said.

The solution? Harte says instead of using individual phone numbers for contestants, the show should use just one phone number that would direct fans to their favorite.

The method would still mean votes would go uncounted because of the time limit, but it would take a percentage of votes and Harte says a clear winner would emerge.

Harte is starting an e-mail campaign to get the word out about his theory and solution. He is also encouraging people to write to FOX to make the change for next season.

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