Star-struck viewers put BT on spot

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AN INQUIRY has been launched after a surge of callers to a television talent show crippled telephone networks, writes Esther Oxford.

More than 200,000 people jammed switchboards over a seven-minute period. They were registering their votes for the final of Stars in their Eyes. Thousands of lines, mostly in Manchester and Cleveland, went dead due to the mass phone-in.

British Telecom and Granada Television, which produces the show for ITV, announced investigations into the breakdown which happened in spite of an extra 10,000 lines being ordered.

A BT spokeswoman said it had a system where calls were re-routed if there was a risk of overloading. 'In the Songs of Europe contest we were able to take up to a million calls at a time. We need to find out why there was a reduced number of calls going in and why there was a knock-on effect around the country.' BT had given assurances that the collapse did not affect the result of the contest, won by Jacquii Cann, 28, of Norwich, who impersonated Alison Moyet.