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Industry fights back in Big Brother voting row

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The premium rate industry has hit out at regulators' investigation of iTouch UK and Minick Ltd, the providers of Big Brother's SMS and phone lines.

ICSTIS said Friday it would be probing 2,700 complaints against the show, following the reintroduction of a contestant who viewers had previously voted to evict. The watchdog will decide whether punters have been misled and there has been a breach of its code of practice.

The Network For Online Commerce said it was appalled at the action. Chairman Roy Ellyatt said: "This isn't even a Premium Rate issue and ICSTIS shouldn't be involved. Channel 4 decided to re-introduce contestants long after the voting was completed and the losers were expelled.

"This is a bit like prosecuting the Highways Authority instead of the bank robbers for allowing robbers access to drive on the road to the bank."

Channel 4 has said it will cooperate fully with the process. A spokesman for ICSTIS said while Ellyatt is entitled to his opinion, the complaints were indeed a premium rate issue. Ofcom, who also operates broadcast regulation, referred the 2,000 complaints it received to ICSTIS.

The housemates decided to allow Nikki Grahame back into the competition on Friday night. The other three who had been given a second chance to bore each other and the viewing public into drooling catatonia were panto-booed back into obscurity.

ICSTIS could impose a maximum £250,000 fine. The investigation should take about 12 weeks, by which time nobody will give a fig. ®

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