As X Factor Malta is heading towards the third live show, with eight acts left in the competition, drama has erupted surrounding the contest voting. Fans reported that before last Sunday’s show, they received text messages from the parents of one contestant, urging them to vote for their son. Show producers say this is against the rules.
Maltese news site Lovin Malta reports that a number of people received SMS text messages supposedly from the parents of X Factor contestant Karl Schembri, encouraging them to vote for their son. The message reportedly said: “I really appreciate if tonight you vote for my son Karl Schembri, finalist of X Factor Malta. Will send SMS number when televoting is open. Thank you very much”
The SMS campaign didn’t necessarily have the desired effect. Many recipients of the message reportedly had a negative reaction, wondering how the sender had got their number. One said, “She better tell us where she gathered the number for our mobiles from. I don’t know you from Adam and we received two messages to vote for Karl.”
The X Factor Malta reacts
The situation was bad enough to compel the X Factor producers to take action. In a Facebook post which addressed other voting issues from the week-two show, the producers demonstrated that they were taken things seriously. They wrote:
“X Factor Malta has received a number of complaints regarding spam SMSes encouraging people to vote for certain contestants. X Factor Malta would like to make it very clear that spamming is clearly forbidden both by X Factor rules and by local data protection laws, and encourages members of the public who receive such messages to report these occurrences to the relevant authorities.
“Moreover, X Factor has advised its participants that a zero-tolerance policy will be adopted in case of proven and clear breaches of X Factor rules.”
It’s not out of the ordinary for friends and family of talent show contestants to show support for their loved ones, however, this normally takes the form of things like supportive t-shirts and signs, not spamming people via SMS.
The X Factor also reported that the second live show was watched by around 145,000 — impressive figures for an island nation with a population of just 493,000. But with a low population, it’s also easier to manipulate voting — and perhaps why the broadcaster has chosen to take a zero-tolerance position.
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It seems that X Factor Malta wants its winner to be decided fairly. After all, spamming Maltese viewers won’t have much effect when Malta’s act in Rotterdam has to face the European vote in May.
The week two show included the shock exit of Jasmine Abela. After giving one of the strongest performances the week before — and seen as a likely finalist — a lacklustre Madonna cover saw Jasmine instantly eliminated. The show producers assured viewers that despite some SMS votes not receiving a confirmation reply, their votes were still counted.
Karl Schembri — who had received mixed feedback for his popera style vocals — escaped the final three and was safe for another week. But despite him being one of the more divisive contestants, he does have supporters who — regardless of any SMS campaigning — will still support their idol.
The X Factor Malta continues this Sunday with the third live show where the contestants will tackle movie themes. Two more acts will be eliminated, with six lucky contestants heading to the semi-final.