`American Idol’ adds online voting for viewers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - “American Idol” is taking democracy online.

Viewers will be able to cast votes through Facebook, along with the previous options of phone and text message, when the singing contest shifts from judges’ to audience’s choice next Tuesday.

It’s the first time Internet voting will be part of the Fox series, which is in its 10th season. Toll-free phone and AT&T text-message voting, at standard rates, will continue, the network said Thursday.

Online participation will be limited to viewers in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have a Facebook account, Fox said. Each person can cast up to 50 online votes.

“American Idol” has long wanted to add an online ballot component but couldn’t take the step until the social media site came up with a “secure solution,” said series creator Simon Fuller.

The 2009 high-profile final competition between winner Kris Allen and Adam Lambert drew 100 million phone and text message votes. The tally for last year’s contest between low-key Lee DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox wasn’t announced, raising speculation that voting interest had slipped along with ratings.

But “American Idol,” which added Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler to its judging panel, returned in January as the No. 1 series despite a dip in viewership.

After selection of the 24 semifinalists this week, the 12 male contestants will take the stage Tuesday, followed by the top dozen female singers on Wednesday. The finalists will be announced next Thursday, March 3, with the size of the field as yet unannounced.

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Fox is a unit of News Corp.

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