TV wedding vote-rigging referred to police

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Vote tampering has been discovered in a television competition which offers an on-screen wedding as its first prize, TVNZ said today.

As a result, the broadcaster has scrapped all the votes placed thus far in the competition, and will start again tomorrow.

TV One's Good Morning programme is running the competition, in which the public are allowed to vote for one of six finalist couples competing to have their nuptials paid for - and broadcast on national TV.

The winners will receive a $30,000 wedding package, including a honeymoon in Tahiti, as long as they are prepared to say "I do" on live television.

TVNZ is trumpeting the event as the first live wedding on New Zealand television.

However, today TVNZ said it had found "voting irregularities" in the ballots cast by members of the public.

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Voting had closed for the competition, but during the routine check of the emailed ballots, it was found some had come from invalid email addresses, or without the authorisation of the owners of the email addresses.

As a result, TVNZ had to invalidate the vote, and start again with a fresh system.

Votes will now be cast by text message rather than email, head of television Jeff Latch said.

The texting system was easier to control, and there would be an upper limit placed on the number of text votes people were allowed to place.

Details of the false emails have been referred to the police.

The new text voting system will be available from 9am tomorrow and will run until 5pm on Thursday.

The winners will be announced on Friday's show.

Mr Latch said the broadcaster apologised to all who voted in good faith.

However, the new vote was an "absolutely necessary" step to ensure a fair outcome of the competition.

"We are not prepared to go ahead with any competition vote which may cast doubt on the result or endanger our reputation for trustworthiness," Mr Latch said.

"In fact, it is reassuring that our systems picked up the irregularities.

"Our viewers can have confidence that the result will be fair."

- NZPA