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SFO reviewing GMTV phone-in evidence

It will wait for results of ITV investigation


GMTV logo

The Serious Fraud Office is reviewing evidence from media watchdog Ofcom in the GMTV phone-in scandal, it said.

Last month Ofcom fined the breakfast broadcaster a record £2 million after millions of viewers were charged to enter competitions they had no chance of winning.

The SFO has asked Ofcom to provide documents relating to the case, in order to decide whether a criminal investigation should be launched.

The SFO may also look into the latest ITV phone-in scandal, disclosed in a report on Thursday, which involved shows including Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Gameshow Marathon.

ITV report

An SFO spokeswoman said: ‘Following media reports and some complaints received from the general public about GMTV’s use of premium rate telephone services, we are in touch with Ofcom although no SFO investigation is under way.

‘Furthermore, the SFO will await the outcome of Ofcom’s investigation into ITV’s use of premium rate telephone services as highlighted in the Deloitte report.’

This is believed to be the first time the SFO has looked into a case involving a major broadcaster.

An Ofcom spokesman confirmed: ‘We have received a request from the Serious Fraud Office for further information on the GMTV case. We will be co-operating fully.’

Premium rate

In a damning report published last month, Ofcom found GMTV guilty of ‘gross negligence’ and the ‘widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers’.

Over a period of nearly four years, viewers were encouraged to call premium rate phone lines even though competition winners had already been selected earlier in the programme.

A GMTV spokeswoman said: ‘We have not been approached by the SFO but we would obviously co-operate fully if asked.’

ITV chairman Michael Grade told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ITV was happy to hand over all the evidence to the authorities if requested, but its legal advice was that it ‘did not support any allegation of criminal behaviour’.

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* For information on claiming money back, see our TV phone-in scandals report.

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