British broadcaster ITV has received the results of an investigation that reveals the extent of the premium rate phone fiasco that has undermined viewer confidence in participation programmes. The numbers have been counted and checked by an independent auditor. We will soon find out whether the senior executives involved will survive the result of the viewer votes.
ITV commissioned the investigation by accountants Deloitte, following the premium rate phone line fiascos that have already claimed the resignation of the managing director of breakfast television company GMTV.
ITV is the majority shareholder in GMTV, which was fined £2,000,000 by the communications regulator Ofcom for the “widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers”. ITV is still awaiting the outcome of investigations into its own programmes. These include prime time talent shows that rely heavily on viewer votes, and late night play along quizzes that are dependent on participation through premium rate phone lines.
“It is a nightmare,” an unnamed source told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “There have been problems for two years with phone lines swamped by callers whose votes never counted, or whose entries were never considered for competitions.”
Reportedly in the firing line are Jeff Henry, the head of the ITV consumer division, and William Van Rest, the controller of the ITV Play interactive division.
Michael Grade, the chief executive of ITV, has said the company would have a “zero tolerance” policy toward viewer deception. He told a House of Commons media select committee in July: “If people deliberately set out to deceive audiences they won’t work for me again”.