The BBC has been forced to deny a renewed voting fiasco surrounding Strictly Come Dancing after fans complained that they were unable to get through on phone lines to cast their vote in Saturday's series finale.
Many viewers said they had been prevented from voting in the competition, which was eventually won by the Holby City actor Tom Chambers ahead of the singer Rachel Stevens and the model Lisa Snowdon.
Chambers, 31, and his Danish-born professional dance partner, Camilla Dallerup, 34, only made the final after the judges' unusual scoring in the semi-final meant they could not avoid the dance-off.
Their victory provoked claims that the format has become a personality contest rather than a true trial of dancing skill. Snowdon was eliminated from Saturday's final in third place despite being awarded two perfect scores of 40 by judges. The corporation made a robust defence of the success of its sequin-spangled format, pointing out again that it is now filmed in 30 different countries and has recently been commissioned for a eighth series in the lucrative, if notoriously unpredictable, American market. The format has made the corporation some £80m globally.
But problems surrounding the latest British series, including the hasty departure of the political journalist John Sergeant and the semi-final voting pickle, have prompted questions about its current guise. BBC bosses are understood to be particularly concerned that the Sunday night results has made Strictly Come Dancing look unwieldy and old fashioned compared to its ITV rival, The X Factor.
For the first time this series, Strictly has fallen behind The X Factor in the viewing figures. Saturday's Strictly grand final, presented by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly, was watched by 13.3 million viewers – a record for the show – which is 53.9 per cent of all viewers but still behind last week's X Factor climax, which drew an audience of 15 million and an audience share of 60 per cent.
The BBC confirmed yesterday that "huge" call volumes for Strictly on Saturday night meant that some viewers might have struggled to cast their votes. Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny in four 007 films, told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that she tried to vote 75 times for former S Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens, but only managed to make four successful calls. The ballroom dance-loving Liberal Democrat deputy leader Vince Cable also said he had been unable to get through.
The BBC declined to disclose how many votes had been cast by viewers but insisted that the final result had been independently verified. A programme source insisted: "We did a very thorough verification process and we were in constant touch with BT. We have no concerns [about the vote]. It was a clean vote."