Channel 4 fined over phone-in shows

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LONDON -- British media watchdog Ofcom said Thursday it has fined commercial broadcaster Channel 4 1.5 million pounds ($3 million) for misconduct over viewer phone-in competitions in two of its programs.

Ofcom fined the broadcaster 1 million pounds ($2 million) for its actions on "You Say We Pay," starring top U.K. daytime hosts Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan.

The broadcaster urged viewers to call a premium rate phone line after contestants had already been chosen and then operated a "staggered selection process" for choosing finalists. This meant that later contestants had a reduced chance of winning.

The latter offense also earned the broadcaster an additional 0.5 million pounds ($1 million) fine on "Deal or No Deal."

While accepting that Channel 4 had not intentionally meant to mislead viewers, Ofcom described the misconduct as "a serious breakdown in trust between a public service broadcaster and its audience."

Channel 4 said it accepted Ofcom's ruling and would donate 600,000 pounds ($1.2 million) to charity -- in addition to 300,000 pounds ($600,000) previously pledged.

According to Ofcom, Channel 4 has generated more than 25 million pounds ($50 million) in revenue from phone-ins.
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