The managing director of GMTV has apologised to viewers who may have paid to enter phone in competitions which they had no chance of winning.
Paul Corley said on this morning’s show: ‘I’d just like to apologise for everything that’s gone on. If we had known it would have stopped immediately.’
BBC1’s Panorama programme claimed last night that some callers and texters to GMTV stood no chance of winning because shortlists of potential winners were finalised ‘long before’ phone lines closed.
GMTV revealed yesterday it had discovered ‘irregularities’ in the system provided for it by telephone company Opera Interactive Technology, terminated its contract with the firm and apologised to viewers.
It added that it was determined to reimburse viewers who had lost out by entering the quizzes and its competitions were suspended until further notice.
Mr Corley said he hoped to bring back the show’s popular competition but would not do so until he could be certain viewers would get the chance they were paying for.
He said one of the reasons the show had chosen Opera to run its competitions was because of its advanced technology.
He said the firm did keep records of competitions and he hoped it would be possible to reimburse any viewers who had paid to enter a competition but not been put into the draw.
Mr Corley described Panorama’s estimate of as much as £40 million as ‘a serious exaggeration’ but added that he would be annoyed if viewers had been misled into spending even £1.
GMTV said it was first made aware of problems when it was approached by Panorama around 11 days ago.
Panorama said tens of thousands of calls and texts were made to GMTV competitions every morning for the past four years.
According to the BBC investigation, people spent an estimated £45,000 trying to enter the competitions each day, or £10 million a year, over several years.
Calls currently cost 60p a minute from a BT land line – which, with calls lasting 130 seconds, clocks up a cost of £1.80 per entry – while mobile phones and other networks can charge more. Entering by text message or online costs £1.
The premium rate services regulator Icstis is examining the claims surrounding GMTV, which is the latest in a series of TV programmes to have been hit by the phone-line competition scandal.
Opera Interactive Technology said it had improved its procedures to ensure all entrants were considered ‘equally and fairly’ and it had not benefited financially from any past errors.
It also said it had removed relevant staff from their normal duties on GMTV competitions pending further investigation.
Opera had earlier told Panorama there was ‘not a shred of truth’ in the allegations.
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