Russia's Channel One TV on Thursday annulled the results of a popular TV talent show after uncovering evidence of fraud in its most recent competition that led to a landslide win for a pop star's daughter.
Mikella Abramova, the 11-year-old daughter of former Eurovision contestant Alsou and Azerbaijani banker Yan Abramov, won the sixth season of the highly popular "Golos dyeti" ("The Voice Kids") show with 56.5% of the vote. The contestant in second trailed far behind with 27.9%.
"The Voice Kids" is a spin-off from the highly popular international talent show "The Voice," a worldwide franchise with shows in the U.S. and Europe.
A probe was launched after the voting results provoked an outcry on social media, with many users claiming the vote had been rigged because of the abnormally high number of votes cast for Abramova. The state-controlled Channel One quoted an investigation by the Group-IB cybersecurity firm that revealed a high proportion of automated votes via text messages.
Group-IB investigators found that only 300 phone numbers generated 8,000 text messages, all voting for Abramova.
"Interim results of our inspection confirm that the vote was influenced by external forces, which affected the outcome of the show," Channel One said in a statement. At the same time, it emphasized that the children who participated in the competition should not be held accountable for actions carried out by other people.
"What happened in the sixth season of "The Voice Kids" should be the first and last case when someone tries to control the audience's choice," the TV station said, noting that steps would be taken to improve voting procedures.