Can Reality Shows Actually Rig Their Results?
Last week it was Mochi, this week it’s The Sacred Riana. After any results for America’s Got Talent (or any other reality competition with an public vote component) are announced, there will inevitably be cries of “RIG!” from fans unhappy with the outcome.
However, the shows aren’t actually allowed to mess with votes from the viewers. They can portray contestants in a positive or negative light and give some more airtime and attention than others, but it’s straight-up illegal for them to directly manipulate the results.
Yes, there have been some controversies with voting and results in the past (looking at you, American Idol). But nowadays, every televised competition involving an audience vote displays a message similar to this one (from the current season of AGT) during the credits:
“The home audience voting is conducted by an independent third party which will monitor the voting to prevent individuals from unfairly influencing the outcome of the competition.”
What does this mean? Staff on the shows themselves don’t actually count the votes; that job is outsourced to an outside company with no conflicts of interest with the network or any of the contestants.
Don’t get me wrong, reality show producers can and do try to influence results for various reasons, but they can only do so by convincing the audience to vote a certain way, not directly deciding the outcome themselves. If any program announces results different from the ones given by the company who verified the votes, they would likely face serious legal action and lose much more than they would ever have gained by getting a specific outcome of the show.
So no, reality TV results aren’t “fixed” but these shows do have ways of getting the outcomes they want via other methods that are often shady, but not illegal.