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GMTV fined £2 million

Ofcom acts over phone-in scandal


A woman holding a phone

GMTV was fined £2 million yesterday over misconduct in its viewer competitions.

The fine is the largest penalty imposed against a broadcaster by the watchdog.

The competition picked finalists before phone lines had closed, meaning substantial numbers of people who entered had no chance of winning.

Ofcom has also told GMTV to broadcast a summary of its findings.

No chance of winning

The fine comes after GMTV’s competition phone line provider, Opera Telecom Ltd, was told to pay £250,000 by premium rate phone line regulator Icstis.

Picking potential winners early came at a cost of some £20 million to callers.

At least 18 million viewers were charged for entering the GMTV phone-in competition with no chance of winning over a period of nearly four years, spending on average more than £1 on each call.

GMTV, which has suspended its premium rate competitions, was found to be in breach of the Broadcasting Code on the fair conduct of competitions.

GMTV offering refunds

Ofcom said the fine related to a period spanning more than three years between August 2003 and February 2007.

GMTV issued a statement saying it accepted full responsibility for the scandal.

It said: ‘GMTV accepts Ofcom’s judgment and, as broadcaster, takes full responsibility for the breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. As soon as we became aware of the problems, we took all premium rate services off air and in July launched a series of comprehensive remedies to recompense our viewers.

‘We are offering refunds to disenfranchised entrants and to date nearly 130,000 viewers have contacted our refund helpline, which is still open online, and will remain open, for the foreseeable future.’

It said it had made a £250,000 donation to ChildLine and added: ‘GMTV has announced a new code for premium rate competitions and we will not reintroduce them into our programmes until we are absolutely sure that the right compliance procedures are in place to enable our viewers to continue to enjoy the competitions knowing they are run fairly and honestly.’

Other probes

Ofcom is currently investigating more than 20 cases relating to the competitions scandal which has engulfed broadcasters in recent months.

Investigations into Channel 4’s Richard And Judy and Deal Or No Deal, ITV’s Quizmania and The Mint, and Comic Relief and Sport Relief on the BBC are just some of the probes being carried out.

The controversy has seen Ofcom slap an unprecedented £50,000 fine on the BBC for faking a competition winner on Blue Peter, the children’s show which had to apologise to viewers for a second time yesterday over a rigged poll to name a cat.

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