AT&T, one of the biggest corporate sponsors of “American Idol,” might have influenced the outcome of this year’s competition by providing phones for free text-messaging services and lessons in casting blocks of votes at parties organized by fans of Kris Allen, the Arkansas singer who was the winner of the show last week.
Representatives of AT&T, whose mobile phone network is the only one that can be used to cast “American Idol” votes via text message, provided the free text-messaging services at two parties in Arkansas after the final performance episode of “American Idol” last week, according to the company and people at the events.
There appear to have been no similar efforts to provide free texting services to supporters of Adam Lambert, who finished as the runner-up to Mr. Allen.
Since then, angry supporters of Mr. Lambert have flooded online chat boards with messages claiming irregularities in the competition’s voting.
Officials of Fox Broadcasting declined to discuss the situation. In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for AT&T said, “In Arkansas, we were invited to attend the local watch parties organized by the community. A few local employees brought a small number of demo phones with them and provided texting tutorials to those who were interested.”
Details of the voting support were first reported last week in an article in The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Representatives of AT&T helped fans of Mr. Allen at the two Arkansas events by providing instructions on how to send 10 or more text messages at the press of a single button, known as power texts. Power texts have an exponentially greater effect on voting than do single text messages or calls to the show’s toll-free phone lines. The efforts appear to run afoul of “American Idol” voting rules in two ways. The show broadcasts an on-screen statement at the end of each episode warning that blocks of votes cast using “technical enhancements” that unfairly influence the outcome of voting can be thrown out.
And the show regularly states that text voting is open only to AT&T subscribers and is subject to normal rates.