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Thursday 08 May, 2008


Ofcom fines ITV plc

Office of Communications
08 May 2008

8 May 2008

Ofcom Update: Ofcom fines ITV plc for misconduct in viewer competitions and

Ofcom has informed ITV plc this morning that it is imposing a fine totalling
£5,675,000 for some of the most serious breaches of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code
concerning the abuse of premium rate services (PRS) in its programming1.

The fine, which is by far the highest imposed by Ofcom or any of the previous
regulators, reflects not only the seriousness of ITV's failures but also their
repeated nature.  The previous highest fine imposed by Ofcom was £2 million on
GMTV in September 2007.

Separately, ITV plc has pledged an additional £7.8 million for viewer
compensation and to charity. This fact was taken into account by Ofcom in
reaching its decision on the level of the fines.

Ofcom's investigation considered information voluntarily supplied by ITV plc
from its review by auditors Deloitte and also material obtained by Ofcom during
its own investigations.

Sanctions Cases

Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway:

Various dates between 14 January 2003 to 21 October 2006

Ofcom has imposed a financial penalty on LWT Ltd of £3 million and has directed
it to broadcast a summary of Ofcom's findings on two occasions on ITV1.

In summary, Ofcom's investigation found the following conduct in breach of its
Codes in three competitions within this programme:

Grab the Ads

  • Selecting competition finalists before the telephone lines were announced
    as closed;
  • Staggering the selection of competition finalists which meant that viewers
    entering the competition did not have a fair and equal chance of winning;
  • Selecting finalists on the basis of their suitability to be on television
    and where they lived - contrary to the broadcaster's own terms and
    conditions, which explicitly stated that entrants would be chosen randomly.

Jiggy Bank

  • Selecting finalists for the competition based purely on where they lived -
    contrary to the broadcaster's own terms and conditions, which explicitly
    stated that entrants would be chosen randomly;
  • Selecting winners on the basis of their suitability to be on screen,
    contrary to the broadcaster's own terms and conditions, which explicitly
    stated that entrants would be chosen randomly;
  • On one occasion, an individual already known to the production team was
    placed on the shortlist of potential winners and went on to 'win' the

Win the Ads

  • Selecting members of the studio audience from the competition entrants on
    the basis of their suitability to be on screen, contrary to the
    broadcaster's own terms and conditions, which explicitly stated that
    entrants would be chosen randomly.

Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon:

17 September - 29 October 2005

Ofcom has imposed a financial penalty on LWT Ltd of £1.2 million and has
directed it to broadcast a summary of Ofcom's findings on two occasions on ITV1
relating to the following conduct:

  • On six occasions in the Prize Mountain competition, winners were selected
    based on their suitability to be on screen.  This was contrary to the
    broadcaster's own terms and conditions, which explicitly stated that
    entrants would be chosen randomly;
  • Additionally, the licensee was unable to account for almost half of the
    competition entries.

Soapstar Superstar:

5 - 13 January 2007

Ofcom has imposed a financial penalty on Granada Television Ltd of £1.2 million
and directed it to broadcast a summary of Ofcom's findings on two occasions on
ITV1 relating to the following conduct:

  • In one programme, the programme makers ignored the viewers' vote and
    finalised results before the lines had actually closed.  This resulted in
    the wrong participants being put forward for eviction;
  • On a number of occasions, the production team overrode the song choices
    voted for by viewers. On these occasions a proportion of viewers who voted
    had not got what they had paid for.


12 December 2006 - 24 October 2007

Ofcom has imposed a financial penalty on ITV2 Ltd of £275,000 relating to the
following conduct:

  • On 28 separate occasions, when repeating programmes, the broadcaster
    failed to inform viewers that interactive competitions had concluded. This
    meant that all PRS entries in these competitions had no chance of winning
    but were still charged.
  • On 3 separate occasions, when repeating an interactive dating programme
    (Playdate), the broadcaster failed to inform viewers that the broadcasts
    were not live and interactivity was no longer available. This meant that the
    PRS entry routes to participate in the programmes remained open and anyone
    who called was still charged.

The Chairman of Ofcom's Content Sanctions Committee, Philip Graf, said: 'ITV
programme makers totally disregarded their own published terms and conditions
and Ofcom Codes.  Further there was a completely inadequate compliance system in
place.  The result was that millions of paying entrants were misled into
believing they could fairly interact with some of ITV's most popular programmes.

Commenting on today's decision to sanction ITV, Ofcom Chief Executive Ed
Richards said: 'This was a thorough set of investigations which uncovered
institutionalised failure within ITV that enabled the broadcaster to make money
from misconduct on mass audience programmes.  The industry can be in no doubt
how seriously Ofcom takes the issue of audience trust. Our new licence
conditions requiring broadcasters, who operate in this area, to conduct third
party audits will ensure that consumers are protected'.

Additional ITV PRS Issues

ITV's review of PRS by Deloitte covered key findings on networked ITV
programmes. However, no reference was made to ITV's regional programming where
PRS was also used. Ofcom therefore requested further information and details on
potential issues relating to regional programming.

Due to its inadequate systems, ITV was unable to provide Ofcom with sufficient
data and evidence to enable Ofcom to carry out fully an investigation into these
cases. Ofcom considers that this lack of information appears to indicate an
absence of robust systems in place in the operation of PRS in regional
programming. ITV plc appeared to have introduced the use of PRS in ITV regional
programming with little or no assessment of the associated risks and with poor
levels of supervision.

Other cases in breach of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code

In addition to the above, the following were found to be in breach of the Code
but no  sanction was imposed:

ITV1: I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! (LWT Limited): 30 November 2006

ITV1: People's Court: 17 March 2008

ITV Play: ITV Playalong (16 November 2006), The Mint (7 December 2006),
Glitterball (6 March 2007)

Cases not in breach of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code

Ofcom also investigated allegations made about the 2005, 2006 and 2007 series of
The X Factor. Ofcom found that these programmes did not breach the Code.

In particular, a detailed minute by minute analysis of the call data established
that in the 2007 finals Leon Jackson was correctly announced as the winner (over
Rhydian Roberts); that ITV did not mislead its audience in claiming that the
finalists were 'neck and neck'; and the difficulties some viewers found in
calling the programme did not result in unfairness.

The full Adjudications are available on the Ofcom website at:

All other findings can be found within Ofcom's Broadcast Bulletin Issue no.108
on the Ofcom website at:

Other on-going investigations

There are a number of other on-going investigations which Ofcom is conducting.
These include the British Comedy Awards (2004 and 2005) broadcast on ITV1, the
Secret Sound competition broadcast on a number of GCap radio stations, and a
number of programmes on BBC radio and television, some of which are PRS cases.

These investigations are well-advanced, with Ofcom obtaining the reports and
information we have requested from broadcasters and the relevant licensee.  The
results of these investigations will be published in the coming weeks.


1.      In the case of programmes shown across the ITV network, the
responsibility for compliance (and the liability for a potential financial
penalty) falls to the licensee chosen to comply the programme on behalf of the
ITV network.  In these cases, the compliance licensee for Ant & Dec's Saturday
Night Takeaway and Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon was LWT Ltd.  In the case of
Soapstar Superstar the compliance licensee was Granada Television Ltd. Following
the merger in 2004 between Carlton Communications plc and Granada plc, these
companies are now part of ITV plc.

2.      The following Broadcasting Rules were relevant to these investigations:

•         Rule 2.2: 'Factual programmes or items or portrayals of factual
matters must not materially mislead the audience.';

•         Rule 2.11: 'Competitions should be conducted fairly, prizes should be
described accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known ';

•         Rule 8.2(b) of the ITC (Independent Television Commission) Programme
Code 2002 'Use of Premium Rate Telephone Services in Programmes: The licensee
must retain control of and responsibility for the service arrangements....'.
(This section of the ITC Code was in force until July 2005)

3.      The procedures for investigating content and content-related cases are
available at  These
procedures set out the way Ofcom investigates cases and considers the imposition
of statutory sanctions, including fines.  The broadcaster is not aware of the
level of any sanction imposed until just before it is published by Ofcom.

4.      Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK
communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio,
telecommunications and wireless communications services.

For further details please visit


Kate Lee

Ofcom Media Office

[email protected]

(+44) (0)20 7981 3033

                      This information is provided by RNS
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