Scandal beats U.K. quiz channel

ITV Play yanked as phone-fee scandal hits b'casters

ITV said Tuesday that is pulling the plug on ITV Play, its lucrative interactive quiz channel, in the wake of the phone-fee scandal that has embroiled the U.K.'s main terrestrial broadcasters.

ITV said it will retain some of the quiz programming on its networks, saying it is "satisfied" that the shows are being operated in line with regulations.

The broadcaster, which has aggressively marketed ITV Play on digital platforms here and recorded revenue of £54 million ($104 million) from it last year, said it will replace the quiz show channel that airs on satellite and digital terrestrial platforms with a time-shifted version of digital network ITV2.

All the major broadcasters here have been forced to concede that there were irregularities in the way that phone voting was being handled.

In some cases, viewers were asked to phone in and vote for competitions that already closed, while in others, members of the production teams were given made-up names and announced them onscreen as winners.

The Five channel's "Brainteaser," ITV's "X-Factor," the BBC's "Saturday Kitchen" and Channel 4's "Richard and Judy" have been tainted by the revelations.

Media regulator Ofcom and the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services this month appointed auditors Deloitte to review the market for interactive television quizzes.

"In reviewing the optimum use of our digital spectrum, we have taken a commercial decision to increase ITV2's reach," said Jonathan Lewis, director of ITV's digital channels.

ITV added: "ITV Play programming has been subject to the ongoing independent review of ITV's interactive processes. Following the first stage of the (Deloitte) review, on the basis of the information available including Deloitte's findings, ITV is satisfied that these shows are being operated in accordance with ICSTIS and Ofcom codes."

Earlier in the day, Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan, Five CEO Jane Lighting and ITV executive chairman Michael Grade told an all-party committee of members of Parliament that they would investigate all allegations that viewers had been misled by phone voting.

Channel 4 said that such services deliver revenue of about £9 million ($17.4 million) a year, while Five's Lighting said that, for the RTL-owned broadcaster, the figure was closer to £6 million ($11.6 million).