Just how is it that the only folk who seem to get on Eddie McGuire’s Who Wants to be a Miyyonaire are good old fashioned WASPS?


Monday 18 November

A subscriber writes:

“Hi Stephen

Have you ever noticed that no one from a non-English speaking background
ever seems to get to be a contestant on the program ‘Who Wants to Be a

The program claims that contestants are randomly selected from the thousands
of telephone calls made to the ‘1800 money making’ phone number.

I have heard from a reliable source that the Program does indeed randomly
select potential contestants – and then screens all the calls. Anyone with
even a slight accent is discarded as being potentially ‘bad television’ –
and thus never gets a chance at getting any loot.

I’m sure members of Australia’s diverse cultural and linguistic communities
would like to know this before they spend their money calling the 1800
number to try and get on the show! I suspect the Equal Opportunities
Commission may also be interested in this unstated policy.

Thanks, Kim”

CRIKEY: Kim claims the source is reliable and this is an interesting theory.
Anyone got some insights?



Wednesday 20 November

A correspondent this week asked why Who Wants to be a Millionaire contestants
all tend to be WASPS. An insider reports:

“The selection process begins this way:

After the contestants spend their 50 cents or $1, depending on their
location, they record their details on the computer system at Nine Network’s
contracted company. That company downloads a random selection of the voice
files, rejecting unintelligible (not unintelligent) and goofy files (of
which there are many).

The company select quantities of files from each
state according to Nine’s instructions. Much care is taken to ensure that
‘randomness’ is maintained beyond these constraints. The files are forwarded
to Nine for final selections. After all this care and attention, surely Nine
wouldn’t select the voices that sound like ratings winners … would they?

The company that does this work for Nine has the gig because they have never
been tainted by competition winner selection scandals that have occasionally
plagued the industry.

Good luck!
Pick-A-Box Phil”.



20 November

Today, the responses flooded in:

Hi Stephen

When you ring up to be a contestant, you don’t leave a voice message. You
just type in your home number using the phone keypad.

The explanations of how Nine rig the contestants don’t make sense to me.



Hi Stephen,

Pick-A-Box Phil may have compressed some of the requirements for would-be contestants wanting to be on WWTBAM. The only chance for Nine to get hold of a voice file would come at the stage well after the leaving of details at the 1 902 number. This is pretty much how it works:

1) Contestant rings 1 902 554 649 for 50c. Is prompted to key in STD code and home phone number. No voice at this stage.

2) 100 numbers are generated at random. They are called by a Grundy’s staffer who asks 6 general knowledge questions, some quite difficult, and then the seventh is an estimate like “How many concerts did the Rolling Stones play in the 1990s?” or “What in km/h was Australia’s highest ever wind speed recorded at Mandurah in WA in 1977?”

3) The top 10% become the briefly smiling, waving crew for the next episode. The reason the seventh question is an estimate is to break up any ties by taking the answer closest to the correct one.

Now, I’ve heard that because you pay to enter, the show comes under lottery legislation so the control booth from where the questions are generated is stocked with gaming officials during taping to make sure it’s all above board. I was told no-one gets in or out during the taping. I was also told the 50-50 really is randomly generated because of these strictures.

The only chance to make a judgment on someone’s suitability comes during stage 2), and if my lottery information is correct, Nine or Grundy’s may not be able to. Maybe a Q & A format in English by its very nature precludes people from a NESB.

On the day of taping, the contestants’ day starts at 8am. There’s a lot of hanging around. Taping starts at 4pm. Eddie McGuire turns up at about 3:30pm.

This info is from 2000 and there may have been changes since then. The lottery angle may or may not be correct but would certainly be worth chasing up with Grundy’s. Try the contestant co-ordinator or the show’s affable producer, Michael Whyte.




Dear Crikey,

Re. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

I don’t know much about the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire selection process. However, a friend-of-a-friend was on a few weeks ago, and I understand that after the “random” selection process you have to score pretty well on a pre-test over the telephone before you get to appear on screen (ie. all of the people who appear on the show have at least an OK general knowledge – this “friend of a friend” had actually failed the pre-test twice before). It would be interesting to know whether the telephone pre-test has a clear WASP-bias in similar style to the immigration department dictation tests of decades past.

I’m sure that someone from the subscriber base could shed more light on this issue.

Dear Stephen,

Can I take issue with the description of how “Who wants to be a Millionaire”
contestants are selected, by your correspondent, Pick-a-box Phil. I am no
fan of “Everywhere Eddy” or Channel 9 but Pick-a-Box Phil is just plain

As a contestant who got on as far as the “Fastest Finger First” stage, I can
vouch for the fact that when you register your telephone number on the 1900
number, you at no stage provide a voice recording. The number merely records
your telephone number which you key in by your touch tones on your telephone
keypad. The contracted company that collects this data cannot provide a
download of the voice files as there are no voice files recorded at this
stage only a phone number which is recorded via your telephone keypad.

It is my understanding that 100 numbers are selected weekly and each of
these 100 numbers are contacted and asked 6 questions, with a 7th closest to
the pin type question. The 10 people with the 6 questions correct and the
closest correct answer to the 7th question are then selected to be part of
the show. In my case the 7th question was “In what year did King Henry VIII
die”, I answered “1553”. Knowing that I had answered the previous 6
questions correctly, and later knowing that I was only 6 years from the
correct answer (1547) I knew I was a good chance of getting on.

Sure enough, I was called back 2 days later, and was on the show.

It is probably at the stage where the 100 people are asked the 7 questions,
is where some “screening” is done, as this part is actually undertaken by a
couple of assistant producers of the program. When the 10 contestants got
together for the recording, in the course of talking to each other (we
actually had to spend all day at the studio) we all found out that we got 6
questions correct and that the 7th question varied greatly in answers, one
of my fellow contestants said he guessed around 1770 when King Henry VIII
died some 223 years off the mark, so I was a little amazed at how he got

Best Regards,

Ford Superquiz Mick

Peter Fray

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