GMTV boss quits over call-in quiz scandal

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LONDON -- The U.K. call TV scandal claimed its first scalp Wednesday after the head of breakfast broadcaster GMTV -- 25% owned by the Walt Disney Co. -- said he will resign over the issue.

The broadcaster is thought to have made about £40 million ($82.1 million) in premium phone revenue over the past four years and, in April, admitted to "irregularities" over the way some calls were handled. The broadcaster will attempt to offer refunds to affected viewers.

GMTV managing director Paul Corley said he will step down after overseeing the implementation of a series of measures to rebuild viewer trust in onscreen call-in quizzes -- including offering refunds to wrongly excluded entrants and making a £250,000 ($500,000) charitable donation.

In April, GMTV found itself embroiled in controversy when it revealed it had discovered "irregularities" in the running of its phone-in quizzes.

A database of possibly affected entrants has now been compiled, Corley said, and anyone who believes they may have been wronged can contact GMTV free of charge over the Internet or phone to apply for a refund.

Corley said the station apologized "unreservedly" for the errors and hoped his resignation, along with the new measures, will "restore trust" in GMTV.

"We know that competitions are popular with our viewers, and GMTV hopes to bring them back when the right controls are in place," Corley said. "These measures are intended to show viewers that the company will have the right systems and compliance procedures in the future to ensure that this will not happen again.

"It is important that people take responsibility when mistakes are made that threaten the trust of our viewers. I hope that my resignation, and the strong measures we have put in place, will help to restore that trust in GMTV."

In addition to the refunds, 250 free prize drawings for affected entrants will be held at the end of August, each with a £10,000 ($20,500) prize.

The station said that Opera Telecom, GMTV's former service provider, will contribute to the costs of remedies.

In addition, a compliance officer is being installed at the broadcaster. The officer will be tasked with ensuring that the processes for premium rate services are followed correctly, both internally and externally.

Said GMTV chairman Clive Jones, "I've known Paul for many years, and his resignation is the act of an honorable man. I am pleased and reassured that Paul has agreed to remain at GMTV until the measures have been implemented and would like to wish him all the best for the future."
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