The TV phone quiz scandal has deepened, with broadcaster Five admitting some of its competition winners were faked.
Daily lunchtime show Brainteaser asked viewers to solve a word puzzle within five minutes. But when the audience failed to get the right answer, names of winners listed on screen were simply made up.
On one occasion a member of the production crew went on air posing as a ‘winning contestant’. The quiz is produced by Cheetah Television, a subsidiary of Big Brother makers Endemol UK.
The con came to light after Five – which knew nothing of the scam – began a review of its premium rate telephone services. Cheetah contacted Five on Wednesday to warn ‘irregularities’ had been found.
As a result Five announced it was suspending all programming involving premium rate telephone services.
Five’s Chief Executive, Jane Lighting, said: ‘We are shocked and disappointed and wish to apologise unreservedly to our viewers.
‘The production company involved has failed to meet the high standards we demand of our suppliers.
‘We have decided to suspend any output which involves any premium rate services and to appoint an external auditor, though we have found no evidence of any issues involving any programmes other than Brainteaser.’
The bogus names were used on five separate occasions between January and Tuesday this week, the internal review found.
Viewers were charged 75p per call to enter the ‘quickfire’ element of the quiz, in which they were given approximately five minutes to solve a word jumble puzzle.
Endemol UK said it ‘apologised unreservedly’ for the fiasco.
‘We fully support Five’s decision to take Brainteaser off air. The moment we found out about this while conducting an internal review we brought it to Five’s attention.
‘We apologise unreservedly to Five and to viewers. We are keen to work with Icstis and Five to take whatever steps are necessary to rectify this matter.’
Meanwhile, premium-rate phone regulator Icstis has announced the measures it will take in the wake of the TV quiz shows row.
Chairman Sir Alistair Graham acknowledged that public trust in premium rate phone-ins had been damaged. He said a licensing regime for all premium rate service providers would be introduced within three months.
Icstis said it would refer evidence of a criminal offence to police if it found any. The body is writing to all broadcasters confirming their commitment to carry out reviews. Sir Alistair said there was no evidence of any great ‘cover-up’.
Sir Alistair promised ‘systematic monitoring by Icstis to ensure these services are being run as they should’. Rules for premium-rate phone lines would be published, he added.
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