ITV is offering a refund to any fans of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ who voted by phone or text for the competition’s winner Jules O’Dwyer and her performing dog Matisse, after Ofcom ruled that a performance involving stunt double dogs was misleading.

The broadcasting regulator determined that the talent show was likely to have inadvertently misled viewers after a lookalike dog was used instead of Matisse to perform a tightrope walking routine during the live final. ITV received 1,175 complaints when the incident was uncovered the week after the final episode at the end of May 2015.

In delivering their report, Ofcom said that ITV broke rule 2.14 of the broadcasting code which states “broadcasters must ensure that viewers and listeners are not materially misled about any broadcast competition or voting.”

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However, they did not hand down any punishment or fine to ITV, which is offering 50p by way of cheque to any fans who voted by phone or text – 90% of the 4.5 million voters overall are believed to have done so by way of a free app, with 22.6% of the total voting for O’Dwyer and Matisse – leaving them open to a comparatively small £50,000 in total.

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The report stated: “We considered that, although the Licensee may not have intended to deceive viewers, the presentation of the act 'Jules O’Dwyer & Matisse' not only had the potential to mislead, but was likely to have done so.”

In a response delivered to Ofcom during the investigation, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ITV admitted that attributing the performance to ‘Jules O’Dwyer & Matisse’ “might have contributed to some of the complaints of some viewers that they had been misled”, as two dogs called Chase and Skippy were used as well.

O’Dwyer and her dog not only scooped a prize of £250,000 when they won this year’s competition, but also got the opportunity to perform in the Royal Variety Show. O’Dwyer herself said she was “shocked and surprised” by viewers’ reactions of the use of one of her other dogs as a replacement, as she owns and has trained a number of other animals as well as Matisse.

ITV said at the time that it had never intended to mislead the public, but that a “hectic” week of rehearsals and live performances in the run up to the final had accidentally led to a mix-up.

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