20/12/2007

Ofcom Fine Channel 4 £1.5 Million

Media watchdog Ofcom has fined Channel 4 £1 million over misconduct involving competition phone-ins.

It emerged that viewers had been urged to make calls after the competition winners had already been chosen on Richard and Judy.

The company Eckoh UK which ran the You Say We Pay phone-in as part of the Richard and Judy show was previously fined £150,000.

Ofcom fined Channel 4 £1 million and directed the broadcaster to air a statement of its findings relating to the phone-in on three specified occasions.

The watchdog concluded that Channel Four had "no intention to mislead its audience," but took the view that the breaches constituted a "substantial breakdown in the fundamental relationship of trust between a public service broadcaster and its viewers."

Ofcom said: "Millions of viewers purchased the right to enter these competitions and invested trust in the Licensee. This trust was ultimately misplaced. This case involved the widespread and systematic deception of all those viewers who paid to enter in the belief that they had a fair chance of winning when in fact their chances of winning were diminished or non-existent."

Channel 4 had conducted an internal investigation into its phone-ins following press reports over the conduct of phone-ins.

Ofcom also ruled that the 'Deal or No Deal' phone-in selection of finalists favoured earlier entrants.

The report found that Eckoh staff submitted the shortlist of finalists to staff at Cactus TV, while the telephone lines were still open and the programme was still soliciting viewers to call and enter the competition.

Those viewers who called to enter the competitions had no chance of becoming a finalist after early selection had taken place.

Channel 4 has withdrawn premium rate competitions, undertaken to refund viewers and make charitable donations.

(SP)

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