ITV gets record £5.6m fine for phone-in scandal

ITV has been hit with a record fine of £5.7 million for repeatedly breaching codes enforced by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom and misleading millions of viewers in the process.

Shows such as Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Ant & Dec’s Gameshow Marathon and Soapstar Superstar, all prime-time viewing, were all guilty, in some way or another, of deceiving the public.

Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway received a whopping fine of £3 million for repeated breaches over a period of 3 years from 2003 to 2006. Winners of competitions were regularly chosen before phone-lines were closed. Not only that, there were elements of discrimination as winners were also chosen on how they looked and where they lived.

Contestants on Ant &Dec’s Gameshow Marathon in 2005 were also selected on how they looked – this resulted in a £1.2 million fine.

Soapstar Superstar received a fine of £1.2 million for ignoring the choice of songs as voted for by the viewers in January 2007, whilst ITV2+1 got a smaller fine for neglecting to tell viewers that, because of the time-delay, the phone-lines had closed.

"The fine, which is by far the highest imposed by Ofcom or any of the previous regulators, reflects not only the seriousness of ITV's failures but also their repeated nature,” Ofcom said yesterday.

Ed Richards, chief executive at Ofcom, said: "This was a thorough set of investigations which uncovered institutionalised failure within ITV that enabled the broadcaster to make money from misconduct on mass audience programmes.

All these shocking mistakes and deceptions have left ITV boss Michael Grade with a lot of explaining to do.

“Ofcom’s announcement today is an appropriate moment to restate ITV’s unreserved apology to the public for breaches that took place between 2003 and January 2007,” said Mr Grade.

Time will only tell if an apology will be enough to heal the loss of faith the public now has in the broadcaster.

Editor, - 2008-05-09 11:23:55

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