Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Strictly decision a necessary u-turn

By Torin Douglas
Media correspondent, BBC News

So the BBC has relented and offered refunds after all.

Strictly Come Dancing
This series of Strictly has caused more than a few headlines

Even though most viewers are unlikely to take up the offer - and it's costly and complicated to implement - it's the right decision.

This is not just because some people feel so strongly about the latest "phones fiasco" but because Ofcom is studying whether viewers were misled and, if so, what the BBC has done to put things right.

The BBC has admitted what its critics were saying on Saturday night and Sunday morning - that it should have foreseen that the judges' votes might result in a tie.

It may have been "unprecedented", as the Corporation's Jon Beazley told BBC Breakfast, but it was not unpredictable.

Producers had already laid down what to do if there was a tie when the judges' and viewers' votes were combined or, later, when the judges' dance-off votes were counted.

Intense scrutiny

But they overlooked the possibility that the judges' votes might end in a tie BEFORE the dance-off.

Mr Beazley, the BBC's controller of entertainment production, said this was "unforgiveable", and many people would agree - particularly after the intense scrutiny following last year's phone-vote scandals and the more recent controversy over John Sergeant's resignation.

It's not clear how the producers would have resolved the situation had they seen it coming. What is now important is how they dealt with it once it happened.

That's set out on the Strictly website: "We considered a wide variety of options including the scrapping of all votes from last week's show. It was felt, however, that this would not be fair to the contestants nor to those who had voted.

Kristina Rihanoff and John Sergeant
John Sergeant's departure had already put the BBC into a difficult decision

"Instead, it was agreed that the fairest option was to allow the combined scores of the judges and the audience to carry over to the first show of next week's two-show final.

"This was confirmed by an independent adjudicator as the fairest option."

Small take-up

Some viewers will still not be happy, even though the couple they voted for is going through to the final.

That's why the option of a refund became necessary. Several told phone-in shows and websites they were voting last Saturday on the basis of that week's performances and they may vote for a different couple this week.

Previous refund offers by ITV and Channel 4 suggest that only a small proportion of viewers can be bothered to claim them.

It's not yet clear how many want their money back over John Sergeant leaving the show early. But even if no-one claims a refund this time, the offer was - strictly - necessary.

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