Show angers phone-in viewers

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LONDON -- The U.K.'s Channel 4 will return cash to viewers of Channel 4 magazine show "Richard and Judy" after controversy over a quiz element of the show in which viewers were asked to pay £1 to enter a phone contest.

The broadcaster said Monday that hosts Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan will apologize for the confusion and that the phone quiz part of the chat show will be axed until an investigation is concluded.

Telecoms watchdog Icstis, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services, which oversees premium phone competitions, began investigating the show after viewers were asked to pay £1 a call to vote for winners after it is thought that polls had officially been closed.

A Channel 4 spokesman said the broadcaster is "still investigating" the claims made about the competition and "did not know" the extent of the problem.

"But we are absolutely clear that if it's found that viewers had been encouraged to enter the competition after the cutoff point had passed for selecting a potential winner, then the channel will offer a full refund to anyone affected," the spokesman said.

"We recognize that some of our viewers will feel they have been misled by the competition and we very much regret that," he added.

This is not the broadcaster's first brush with the regulator. Last year, Icstis ruled Channel 4 had breached guidelines during a telephone vote on reality show "Big Brother."

The broadcaster invited viewers to select one of the evicted contestants to return to the program, prompting about 3,000 complaints from people who had paid to eliminate housemates in earlier voting rounds.

Channel 4 was not fined but it had to pay about $100,000 in administrative costs.
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