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Emergency meeting on phoneline screwups

Richard & Judy and Saturday Kitchen fingered, X Factor owns up

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Premium-rate services regulator ICSTIS has asked for an emergency meeting with broadcasters, programme makers, and service providers to discuss the issues arising from the disclosures around premium-rate competitions on Richard & Judy and BBC's Saturday Kitchen.

Richard & Judy were caught asking people to dial in for the chance to enter a competition, the entrants for which had already been selected, while viewers of Saturday Kitchen got the chance to appear in the next week's show - which was filmed later that day rather than the following week.

Meanwhile, ITV discovered it was overcharging voters using their Sky box to vote for X-Factor contestants, while undercharging competition entrants.

ITV noticed its mistake itself as it charged punters 65 pence for voting, and 35 pence to enter the competition instead of 50 pence and £1, respectively.

The amounts lost by individual punters are pretty small, so arranging refunds is difficult and expensive. Each company is making donations to good causes instead, though refunds are available on production of the appropriate bill. ITV will donate £200, 000 to Childline.

But ICSTIS chairman Sir Alistair Graham is more interested in working out how to avoid these things happening again than dealing with them after the fact:

"Responding to problems after the event is not enough. One of our main priorities at ICSTIS is preventing harm. Broadcasters and others should be looking as a matter of urgency at how the recent problems came about and at what needs to be done to prevent them happening again."

He goes on to propose an emergency meeting next week to discuss what can be done, though the options would appear to be limited. These issues, compounded with confusion at the end of the last Big Brother, have dented public trust in TV premium-rate services, so something will need to be seen to be done, and quickly. ®

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