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Dialing for $$$$

February 21, 1988|Christine Ziaya \f7

New Hampshire voters weren't the only ones casting ballots last week.

TV viewers of Fox network's "Married With Children" and NBC's "Matlock" voiced their opinions over the phone, and decided each of the shows' endings. Of course, casting those votes cost viewers 50 cents each time they called the designated 900 numbers.

On Valentine Sunday, "Married With Children" fans were asked to decide whether the show's leading man, Al, should say "I love you" to his wife Peg.

The 900 numbers for "Married" were published in TV Guide and the call-in lines were opened Sunday morning. Viewers had to stay tuned for an hour after "Married" ended before finding out the results. In a special 96-second segment that followed another Fox show, "Duet," America learned that of the 714,609 people who called in, a majority had voted yes. So the proper pre-taped ending was run.

On New Hampshire Tuesday, "Matlock" viewers were asked to "convict" one of three murder suspects. "Matlock" viewers were only given 10 minutes to dial-in, and the results of the poll were seen immediately: More than 40% of the 223,000 callers waggled the guilty finger at the aerobics instructor as the one who poisoned the unscrupulous businessman.

NBC and Fox agreed to donate their shares from each 50-cent call to charity (NBC to its own charity fund; Fox to the American Heart Assn.)--about $11,100 and $35,700, respectively, officials said.

AT&T was the big profiteer. The phone folks said they get about 45 cents from each 900 call. Which means that from both exercises in "people power" they reached out and collected about $422,000.

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