TV Show Producers Feel 'Betrayed' in Vote Scandal

Producers of the television show "A Star Is Born" ("Kochav Nolad" ) and the Keshet broadcasting company were shocked by the indictment yesterday of the popular singer and TV personality, Margalit "Margol" Tzan'ani, on charges of extortion and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The charge sheet outlines how criminals plotted to use Tzan'ani to subvert "Kochav Nolad" and determine its outcome. Police say Tzan'ani had influenced the voting on the show, the Israeli version of "American Idol," on which she was a judge.

The show has been criticized in the past for suspected voting fraud.

"I'm sad, stunned and feel betrayed, even if only part of the charges are true," Tmira Yardeni, owner of Teddy Productions, said yesterday.

People in Teddy Productions and Keshet said they were not aware Tzan'ani's vote had been influenced by other parties, or of her attempts to recruit contest candidates to a new talent agency set up by alleged criminals Shalom Domrani and Michael Hazan.

The indictment focuses on the ties between Tzan'ani and singer Omer Adam, whom she met on the "Kochav Nolad" show. Adam was disqualified when it transpired he had lied to the producers about his age (he was not yet 16 at the time, as required ) .

"Adam was disqualified because he lied, so from the beginning he had another manager," said program director Yoav Tzafir. ""Apart from that we had no idea Margol was connected to him in any way."

Yardeni said yesterday that if anyone tried to subvert the contest vote, they failed.

"The show is run by honest, innocent people, whom nobody tried to subvert and if they did try they failed. Maybe Margol is tied to the mob, but that doesn't mean criminals are tied to the show," she said.

She rejected the possibility that the affair would undermine the public's confidence in her and in the contest's judges. "It's absurd. It is so unusual. This is not a business turning over millions, like a casino." she said.

Keshet sources said a single judge has almost no influence on the show's outcome. The public's vote constitutes 85 percent of how the contestants fare, while the four judges' vote makes up only 15 percent.

Tzafir said they noticed nothing untoward in the show even on the day Tzan'ani said the name of convict Sagiv Thierry, as a code she had agreed on with Domrani. "Liron Ramati sang in Yemenite Arabic on that show. I was sure she was referring to an expert in the field. Every time something out of place is heard we get comments from the public, or online comments. This time there was nothing. I'm in total shock. Even if some of what they say is true, it's hurtful, offensive and infuriating," he said.

The indictment describes meetings of Tzan'ani with Domrani, Hazan and Channel 24 broadcaster Yaron Ilan, in which they agree to cooperate. Domrani is cited as urging Tzan'ani to cooperate, telling her his people - Ilan and "Lev Hamedina" radio channel broadcaster Eli Cohen - would make her position more powerful.

Channel 24 said yesterday Ilan's program was suspended in view of the charges, until the matter is sorted out.

The producers and Keshet said the indictment shows "Kochav Nolad" had not been compromised, despite the possible intentions of some parties.