From left: Mentors Chen Jiahua, Cai Xukun, Lisa and Jony J pose for a photo at a press conference for Youth With You on Thursday in Guangzhou. (Photo: Global Times)
Be it South Korean or Chinese reality shows such as Produce 101, viewers have wondered whether the winners of these shows were truly chosen by audience vote or if the producers behind the scenes have been pulling the strings.
At least in one case, it seems viewers were right to be suspicious.
K-pop boy band X1, which was formed on South Korean reality show Produce X 101, was disbanded recently after the producers of the show were accused of manipulating audience voting.
Sadly, it was the band, only together for five months, that had to pay the price.
The fraud and irregularities on this reality show have hurt the careers of young people who had potential for great success in the entertainment industry, turning people who should have been rising stars into victims.
Like fans elsewhere, Chinese fans of X1 feel sorry for these 11 young men and so have taken to social media to protest. All are in agreement that their idols do not deserve punishment nor should take responsibility for the fault of the program.
South Korean reality shows are not alone when it comes to this problem, similar Chinese programs also have such problems.
Many viewers are looking forward to the second season of Idol Producer, produced by Chinese streaming platform iQIYI. However, while the show hasn't even debuted yet, it is already facing questions about unfair voting mechanisms on social media.
"I am worried that the producers of the program are carrying out 'black case work' and have already selected the people who they want to win. If that's true, all of my endeavors to help my idols are meaningless," one netizen commented on Sina Weibo.
An insider of the entertainment industry who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Thursday that reality shows only show audiences what they want them to see and indeed are manipulating votes.
"X1 is an extreme case and its members were negatively affected even though they have already made great achievements after their debut. And other young stars are also affected in other ways."
She said some young people in the program are far more talented when it comes to performing and are also capable of getting more votes. However, while they have the means to make their dreams come true, unfair manipulation behind the scenes can end up ruining their dreams or even careers.
Protest and a called-for boycott by fans may put enough pressure on shows that do not have transparent and standardized voting processes to change their ways. In the end, the only shows that will be able to stay around year after year are those that implement fair systems in which competitors do their best to draw in more viewers and get more support from fans all on their own.