Page last updated at 20:52 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Strictly voters offered refunds

Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup
Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup could not have avoided a dance-off

Viewers unhappy with the result of Saturday's Strictly Come Dancing semi-final will now be offered refunds, the BBC has announced.

The audience vote from the show will still count and the results will be revealed during this weekend's final.

Almost 1,800 people complained after a scoring anomaly meant Tom Chambers could not be saved from a dance-off however the public voted.

As a result, it was decided to put all three semi-finalists through.

The BBC had initially said that all votes would be carried forward to next weekend's final and there would be no refunds.

However, BBC head of entertainment production Jon Beazley told BBC Two spin-off show It Takes Two: "[Saturday's] votes will count and that's really important. They have been registered on Saturday and will roll forward.

"What's also important to say as well is that if somebody is really unhappy about that and they feel very strongly that they want to have a refund from their voting last Saturday, then we will refund that call cost."

Jon Beazley: 'We will refund that call cost' - courtesy It Takes Two

The BBC later said viewer votes from the semi-final would be added to the judges' scores and incorporated into a leaderboard at the start of Saturday's final.

It will be the first time the audience voting figures have been made public.

The three finalists will then dance as usual and the audience will again vote, with the points from that added to those from the semi-final to determine this year's champion.

A BBC statement read: "This was confirmed by an independent adjudicator as the fairest option."

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said it had received a number of complaints about last Saturday's show "which we will assess against the broadcasting code".

The problems encountered on Saturday's show occurred when there was a tie between dancers Lisa Snowdon, dancing with Brendan Cole, and Rachel Stevens, partnered by Vincent Simone, following the judges' scoring.

Because of the way the points were then awarded, actor Chambers and partner Camilla Dallerup could not have been saved from the dance-off regardless of how many public votes he had received and that was considered by the show's producers to be "unfair".

However the problem was not realised until after voting had started.

The situation caused the programme to end 10 minutes early, forcing BBC One to fill the gap with trailers.

Mr Beazley, called the situation "really unfortunate" but said: "There were exceptional circumstances at play."

Asked about viewers' complaints that producers should have anticipated the situation, he said: "They might be right.

Lisa Snowdon and Rachel Stevens
Scoring is split 50:50 between judges and viewers
The two couples with the lowest scores once the votes have been combined must perform in a dance-off in front of the judges alone
If there is a tie, the viewers' votes take priority
In this case, the judges' votes for Lisa Snowdon and Rachel Stevens (above) were so high, viewers' votes for Tom Chambers would have been worthless

"We have so many contingencies for a live programme of the complexity of Strictly Come Dancing, this was one extra set of circumstances we didn't have the contingencies in place for."

Viewers were also offered refunds after broadcaster John Sergeant pulled out of the series last month.

Earlier this year, the BBC was fined 400,000 by media watchdog Ofcom for misleading its audiences by "faking" phone-ins on TV and radio. A new code of practice was introduced after the furore.

Mr Beazley said the incident was "validation of the work that's been put into trust at the BBC".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Monday, Arlene Phillips said she and her fellow judges had had "no idea" there was a tie until the scores were announced, explaining they enter their scores via keypads immediately after each dance's completion.

She also stressed the judges would have no impact on which couple wins Saturday's final.

"We have no say next week - the public decide," she said.

Details of how to claim refunds will be available on the Strictly Come Dancing Website from Tuesday.


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