On the chin: ITV admits to phone-in fault


LONDON -- ITV, the U.K.'s largest commercial broadcaster, held its hands up Thursday to charges that about 10 million calls to primetime shows including "The X Factor" and "Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway" were part of the phone-voting scandals here.

A report published Thursday, prepared by Deloitte and commissioned by ITV, said that viewers' purses were £7.8 million ($15.6 million) lighter as a result.

But speaking to ITV News, network executive chairman Michael Grade said there will be no witch hunt to find people to fire in his organization.

Describing the process as "very painful" and "very costly," Grade said the objective of the report was "to get the truth."

"The important thing was to get at the truth, not to look for scapegoats, not to look for people just to fire," Grade said in an interview with ITV News. "The object of the exercise was to get the whole thing out now in front of the public so that we can deal with it. In the end, the object of the exercise was to restore public trust. The failure here is not an individual failure. The failure here is a cultural failure."

He also pledged to reimburse audiences for the errors, and any cash that goes unclaimed will be given to charity. How that process will roll out remains to be seen.

But he pointed out that there had been "no corruption here whatsoever" and that the motivation behind the phone-in faults had been about "producers wanting to get the best program on air."

Grade said he hopes viewers "will agree that the industry as a whole has confronted the problem and its putting its house in order. We will be judged going forward on whether there are any repeats of this kind."

U.K. media regulator Ofcom, which has been watching the situation closely, is expected to fine the broadcaster for its admission of guilt.

The report follows hot-on-the-heels of last month's £2 million ($4 million) record fine paid by 75% ITV-owned GMTV for its part in a dial-in quiz fraud.