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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Row over South African Pop Idol
South African Pop Idol winner Heinz Winckler
Did Heinz Winckler deserve to win?
The South African version of Pop Idol has been embroiled in a scandal about vote-rigging and racial prejudice.

Some commentators have said that Heinz Winckler, the young white winning contestant, was simply not as talented as his black rivals.

Brandon October, Melanie Lowe and Heinz Winckler
Three finalists battled it out
"People were in a state of shock, they really couldn't believe that somebody of Heinz's caliber won," Gaynor Kast, a journalist with the Star newspaper in Johannesburg, told BBC World Service.

Many have speculated on the validity of Heinz Winckler's win.

"Lots of people watching the show, and those who worked on it, admitted that there was no doubt that the runner-up was a much better and a much stronger singer," Ms Kast told the Arts In Action programme.

Whittled down

Franchised out to Fremantle Media Enterprises and the cable company MNet, the South African edition of the programme took the British format of a musical talent search.

A collection of young aspiring pop stars were tested, judged and then whittled down to two performers, Winckler and a young black soul singer called Brandon October.

The winner was then selected on the basis of audience telephone polls.

Explaining that MNet attracts an 80% white audience, Ms Gast suggested that many of the black contestants did not get a fair shot at pop stardom.

"Some sections of our society still think in black and white and Idols proved once again that there are people who see colour," she asserted.

"Until that changes, I don't think reality TV programmes like Big Brother and Idols are going to work in this country."

Syndicates

Having been awarded Europe's top television honour - the prestigious Golden Rose of Montreux in April, the British based TV format, like others before it, hopes to become an international phenomenon.

South African Pop Idol winner Heinz Winckler
Winckler's debut single, Once In A Lifetime, has just been released

However, in South Africa further suggestions of vote rigging have marred the talent show.

Ms Gast explained how one story circulated in the press about a contestant repeatedly voting for herself.

She told how the pop wannabe allegedly spent "up to 7000 rand [US $676] a day" on telephone voting.

Rumours that betting syndicates were in operation, have given rise to the idea that the final decision may not have been exclusively about race.

Speculating on the nature of voting, Ms Kast commented: "We haven't been able to prove this but some contestants had syndicates.

Their family members set up offices with people who were just voting for them constantly."

Desperation

This is not the first time that the South African Idol show has suffered from adverse publicity.

Earlier in the year Matthew Stewardson, the show's presenter, resigned before checking into a drug rehabilitation centre.

See also:

14 Jun 02 | Entertainment
23 Jan 02 | Entertainment
28 Jan 02 | Entertainment
11 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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