Itv 'Misled Phone-in Contestants'by Contributor | 18 October 2007
A report on ITV's premium-rate interactive services has identified "serious editorial issues" with a £7.8 million reimbursement package to be launched.
Auditing firm Deloitte has examined all programs in which the viewing public had the chance to participate in over the last two years, after serious allegations arose of viewers being misled.
ITV chairman Sir Michael Grade ordered the review after problems with premium rate phone-in services emerged, including viewers reportedly being charged for competitions in which they had no chance of winning due to their geographical locations, as well as allegations that contests remained open even when a winner had already been selected.
Commenting on today's findings, Sir Michael confirmed that a "comprehensive scheme" would be launched to reimburse affected customers, with unclaimed amounts donated to charity.
"I am also on the record as saying that I take a zero tolerance stance," he continued, "and that means not tolerating a culture that condones audiences being deliberately misled, or not getting the service they have been offered. In some instances there has been disciplinary action, but I don't intend to take a couple of token scalps in expiation. That would not solve the problem.
"As I've said, those involved thought they were working to make the best programmes. The effective solution is to change the culture, to change the systems, to understand the importance of trust."
He added: "Let me say finally, on behalf of ITV, that we deeply regret what has happened and how sorry we are for breaking trust with our viewers."
The report found "serious editorial issues" in Soapstar Superstar 2007, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway 2005 and 2006 and Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon 2005, and technical problems with interactive voting on The X-Factor, among others.
Sir Michael cancelled all premium rate phone-ins, interactive votes and competitions in March, while Deloitte carried out its investigation.
Though phone voting eventually returned to most programmes, quiz channel ITV Play has been abandoned after call volumes declined dramatically.