ITV suspends premium rate servicesIt launches review following phone-in rows

06 March 2007

 

Man with a TV remote control.

ITV is suspending all premium rate interactive services across its channels following the row over TV phone-ins.

The broadcaster has also announced an independent review.

Its decision means that quiz channel ITV Play will come off air immediately until it has passed a ‘security audit’.

The next instalment of Dancing on Ice will only return at the weekend if phone-in procedures have been shown to be sound.

Interactive TV

John Cresswell, Chief Operating Officer of ITV plc, said: ‘This is a concern across the whole industry but ITV viewers can be confident that we will always act responsibly and take firm action to address issues that may arise.

‘Millions of people enjoy interacting with ITV - either by voting in our entertainment shows or by taking part in prize competitions.

‘It is critical that our viewers have absolute confidence in the services that we offer.

‘We believe that all programmes currently on air are compliant.

‘However, in light of recent concern around this issue, something affecting every major broadcaster, we are conducting this independent review to ensure that ITV is meeting all relevant codes and regulations.’

Premium rate

Mr Cresswell added that ITV had asked the auditors to report back ‘with some urgency.’

He said he expected the review of current programmes to be both swift and thorough and said it will cover all premium rate landline, mobile and red button services.

It will look at programming from the past two years as well as current shows and ITV said it would make the result of the findings public.

The announcement follows news that ITV overcharged X Factor viewers to the tune of £200,000 in an interactive vote blunder.

The error - affecting 1.3 million votes - occurred during every live show in the last series.

Icstis investigation

Viewers who voted for their favourite contestant by pressing the red button on their remote controls should have been charged 35p.

Instead the calls cost 50p, making ITV an extra £200,000, and the blunder came to light during a company audit.

The X Factor was the latest show to be hit by the premium-rate phone line fiasco hitting the broadcasting industry.

Icstis is currently investigating alleged irregularities in phone voting conducted by Channel 4's Richard and Judy show and the BBC's Saturday Kitchen.

Callers to Richard and Judy's You Say, We Pay competition were encouraged to ring in even though the contestants had already been selected.

Saturday Kitchen

Saturday Kitchen allegedly misled viewers by mistakenly giving the impression that the show was live.

In one instance, the cookery show asked viewers to vote for which of two meals Eamonn Holmes should eat.

But the show was pre-recorded and Holmes was presenting his slot on BBC Radio Five Live at the time.

Icstis, the premium rate services regulator, is also looking at whether viewers were misled into phoning in to put questions to celebrity chefs 'live' when the programme was in fact recorded the previous week.

Pre-recorded programmes

GMTV, not wholly owned by ITV, says it is fully compliant with all Icstis codes and will not be suspending any of the competitions.

The BBC said it was not following suit by suspending its premium rate phone lines.

The broadcaster released a statement, saying: ‘Criticism of Saturday Kitchen was about a lack of clarity in the scripting of a pre-recorded programme, not of the way phone lines were operated or calls handled.

‘All callers had a genuine chance of appearing in a future programme, and indeed this is how all the public were selected.

‘It is absolutely clear that on no occasion have Saturday Kitchen phone lines remained open after the result of a phone vote has been decided. Neither the BBC nor the programme makers have profited from the phone lines.’

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