ITV has suspended all premium rate interactive services and pulled its ITV Play quiz channel off air, pending a review by auditors Deloitte. Records from all interactive services over the past two years will be examined. It follows the discovery that ITV had overcharged satellite viewers for voting with the red button on their remote control.
It emerged that the leading commercial television channel in the UK had overcharged viewers by 15 pence a vote in the last series of the X Factor talent show. It has since offered to donate £200,000 to charity. It will refund viewers that can demonstrate that they were overcharged for voting.
The premium rate telephony regulator ICSTIS is investigating allegations against a number of broadcasters. It has called a meeting with broadcasters, programme makers and service providers to discuss its concerns.
Following a board meeting, ITV has acted promptly to reassure viewers. It has temporarily pulled its ITV Play programming, which generates an estimated £50 million a year through viewer interaction. ITV says it hopes that it will be in a position to enable voting to take place on its Saturday night show Dancing on Ice.
The independent review will cover all premium rate landline, mobile and interactive services. It will investigate programmes, including co-productions and independent productions, over the past two years. The broadcaster said it would make the findings public.
“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,” said ITV chief operating officer, John Cresswell.
“We’ve asked the auditors to report back to us with some urgency,” he continued. “The interactive elements in each programme will be reintroduced as they are independently signed off. We expect the review of current programmes to be both swift and thorough. The retrospective review will take longer due to the greater number of programmes involved.”
Interactive elements will only return, programme by programme, once they have been cleared by the independent audit.
George Kidd, the chief executive of ICSTIS, welcomed the intervention by ITV. “We believe that the industry has a major role to play in ensuring that viewers can take part in TV shows with confidence,” he said. “We look forward to receiving the review’s findings.”