ITV Soapstar Superstar scandals – vote rigging, Ofcom fury and court battle

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    Soapstar Superstar was a hit when it first arrived on our telly boxes in 2006, featuring ITV and BBC soap icons like Andy Whyment, Lucy Pargeter and Gemma Atkinson.

    The soap stars battled it out in a gruelling singing competition to see who would be crowned the best of the best, with Coronation Street’s Richard Fleeshman taking the crown in series one.

    Antony Cotton scooped the winning title for 2007’s second series.

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    But after just two stints on our screens, Soapstar Superstar was axed for good.

    Part of that may have been due to the controversy which reigned over the talent show since day one, with vote rigging scandals, an intense Ofcom investigation and more to contend with.

    Daily Star takes a deep dive…

    Vote rigging

    Soapstar Superstar found itself embroiled in controversy when ITV’s vote rigging scandal came to light – with Ofcom fining the broadcaster a whopping £5.675million.

    Other shows involved were Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Ant and Dec’s Gameshow Marathon.

    In Soapstar Superstar, the production team were found to have overridden song choices voted for by viewers and closing voting lines early, while still taking fees from voters.

    Some 20% of viewers’ votes for songs were ignored, and Jane Danson and Tupele Dorgu were put up for eviction in the first episode despite them not receiving the lowest number of votes.

    Verity Rushworth and Leon Lopez were the rightful bottom two, according to the public vote.

    A statement from broadcasting watchdog Ofcom said: “Ofcom was strongly of the view that Granada's and/or ITV's senior management ought to have been aware of the breaches that occurred.”

    Court battle

    Set to appear in the singing competition was Emmerdale star Ben Freeman – who was replaced last minute with a Brookside star after being accused of raping a 16-year-old girl.

    Freeman, who played Scott Windsor in Emmerdale, was eventually cleared of all charges, telling the court that the sex between the pair was consensual.

    The jury heard: “I knew that she was younger than me the first night we spoke, but she seemed mature for her age.”

    Freeman was “released” from his Emmerdale contract amid the accusations, later telling The Mirror: “Everything in my life was falling apart and it was all based on lies. It was complete horror.”

    He added: “Rape is the most horrendous thing to be accused of.

    “It is one of the most heinous crimes and when you are accused of it as a well-known figure it is magnified a hundred times. It is true to say I've lost two years of my life.”

    Ofcom fury

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    Ofcom eventually found that the show did indeed breach the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, which resulted in a £1.2million financial penalty on Granada TV.

    The broadcaster was also required to air a statement of the Ofcom findings on ITV1 on two separate occasions to make up for the transgressions.

    The full report found that on “eight out of 44” occasions, the “Soapstar Superstar production team overrode the song choices voted for by viewers”.

    ITV’s reasoning behind the choice was to “sustain a suitably wide musical balance within episodes, protecting the voices and/or health of the soap opera celebrities participating” or “giving [them] songs they could sing best”.

    The findings were that ITV’s breaches of conduct “resulted in consumer harm to a substantial audience”, concluding: “Large numbers of viewers had voted […] in the belief that the votes they paid to make would be properly and fairly taken into account”.


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