May 8, 2008
ITV pays £5.6 million price for phone in scandal
Ofcom announces record fine
In the latest development in the “phone in” scandal the broadcast regulator Ofcom announced today that it was imposing fines totalling £5,675,000 in respect of various programmes broadcast on ITV.
The programmes found by Ofcom to involve serious breaches of the Broadcasting Code, included Ant & Dec’s Gameshow Marathon, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Soapstar Superstar. In all of the programmes, which were subject to both an Ofcom investigation and an internal ITV review by Deloitte, viewers were invited to either vote or enter competitions using Premium Rate Services (PRS).
Under the Code, competitions must be conducted fairly, but Ofcom found repeated instances of unfair conduct. In Soapstar Superstar programme makers ignored the “viewers’ vote” and finalised results before the lines had actually closed. This meant that the wrong contestants were put forward for eviction. Other breaches involved selecting competition contestants based on their “suitability” to be on screen rather than by random selection as stated in the terms and conditions.
The fine is the highest imposed by Ofcom to date. Investigations into other programmes including several broadcast on the BBC are on-going.
5RB’s Victoria Jolliffe assisted Ofcom in its PRS investigations while on secondment at the regulator earlier this year.