BBC refuses to offer refunds to phone voters

Viewers' anger mounts after penultimate 'Strictly' show ends in deadlock

Fans of Strictly Come Dancing may regard the show as a cut above the standard diet of reality television. But it seems it is far from immune from the controversy afflicting almost all audience-participation shows these days.

First came the sudden departure of John Sergeant and now the BBC's flagship finds itself in a voting row. Producers on Saturday night's show were forced to put all three remaining couples into the final, abandoning the tradition of voting one pair off each week, after a voting anomaly meant there was no way the paying public could save one of the celebrities. Yesterday, hundreds of furious viewers were told the cost of their 15p phone call will not be refunded. Instead, the BBC insists that millions of phone votes that had already been cast will be counted and carried forward to next week's final.

When the political journalist quit the show, that left the producers with a problem. There were originally meant to be three couples in the final. Nonetheless, the decision was taken to continue voting one couple off each week and just have two couples in the final.

The problem arose during the first live show when Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowdon and their professional dance partners tied for first place. It meant they each had three points and Tom Chambers and his partner, finishing bottom of the trio, got one.

Because of the judging, which works on a combination of votes from the judges and viewers, that meant no matter how many people phoned to try to save him, Tom Chambers could not avoid the dance-off.

If he garnered the most viewer votes he would be given three more points, meaning he would get a maximum of four points, the minimum number both female contestants were already guaranteed.

When the first show went off air, the error was realised and, when the live results started at 9pm, viewers were told phone lines were closed. Then all three couples were told they were being put through to the final and none would be voted off.