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Network Tosses Results of ‘Voice Kids’ in Russia After Finding Votes Were Rigged

The Russian network Channel One has canceled the results of the singing TV contest The Voice Kids’s finale after an investigator uncovered proof of rigging the public vote.

“The interim results of the investigation prove that there was meddling with the voting, which had an impact on the final results,” Channel One said in a statement it released on Thursday.

“Although [the investigator] Group-IB is not supposed to file its final report until late May, Channel One, based on the interim results, has made the decision to cancel the results of the finale of The Voice Kids’ sixth season,” the network added.

Channel One stressed that the investigation aims to figure out whether any irregularities took place during the voting that had an impact on its outcome, rather than accuse anyone of wrongdoing.

“The Voice Kids is a TV project that is supposed to bring only positive experience to each of the contestants,” reads Channel One’s statement. “We think that the children should not be blamed for actions they were not part of.”

Channel One said it will air a special edition of the show on May 24 featuring all the finalists, but did not specify if there will be another vote during the show.

So far, none of the finalists have commented on the network’s decision or confirmed their participation in the special edition.

The winner of the rigged finale was 11 year old Mikella Abramova, a daughter of pop diva Alsou and granddaughter of multimillionaire Ralif Safin. She collected 56.5 percent of the vote, while her two competitors, 12 year old Yerzhan Maksim and 10 year old Valery Kuzakov, received 27.9 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively.

The huge gap between the winner and the other contestants, which was highly atypical of all of the show’s previous seasons, was the main reason to scrutinize the vote.

Group-IB said on its website that although no sign of an outside cyberattack or inside malfeasance was detected, the investigator discovered the automatic sending of text messages voting for the winner from many phones. From 300 phone numbers, which suspiciously belonged to the same mobile phone operator and were in service under the same mobile phone plan, over 8,000 text messages voting for Abramova were sent.

Group-IB said it would not disclose the regions where the suspicious phones were registered.

Controversy over the outcome of the final stirred two weeks ago when thousands of viewers, supported by some prominent TV personalities, claimed the results were suspicious and demanded the re-calculation of the vote.

The contest, which is the kids’ version of the popular TV singing contest Voice, is open to participants ages between 7 and 14.

Based on the Dutch TV format The Voice Kids of Holland, The Voice Kids has aired in Russia since February 2014 and is one of the most popular shows on free-to-air television.

None of the previous editions of the contest brought about any controversy. Meanwhile, it served as a launchpad to a showbiz career for just about all the winners.

The Voice adult contest, also based on a Dutch format, has been aired by Channel One since 2012. The longest running singing contest on Russian TV, compared with the local versions of The X Factor and American Idol, which lasted only a few seasons each.


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