ITV fined $11.2 mil over phone-in quizzes

Ofcom says broadcaster's failure was 'institutionalized'

LONDON -- ITV has been hit with a fine of 5.7 million pounds ($11.2 million), the biggest in U.K. television history, for misleading millions of viewers phoning in to quizzes on some of its biggest shows.

The broadcaster was accused by media watchdog Ofcom of having a "completely inadequate" compliance system and of "totally disregarding" the broadcast code in shows including "Saturday Night Takeaway" and "Soapstar Superstar."

"The result was that millions of paying entrants were misled into believing that they could fairly interact with some of ITV's most popular programs," said Philip Graf, head of Ofcom's sanctions committee.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said ITV's failure had been "institutionalized."

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said he fully accepted the sanctions, which are related to events before he came on board.

He restated ITV's "unreserved apology" to viewers and said ITV had cleaned up its editorial, compliance and training procedures since the events were uncovered.

But though Grade conceded "serious breaches of trust" and "gross editorial errors" he maintained they were made to enhance the viewer experience.

"In no case is there evidence that there were any corrupt attempts to generate further revenues," Grade said.
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