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ICSTIS denies it's a watchdog without teeth

Phone-ins to be licensed

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Icstis chairman Sir Alistair Graham denied he was running a watchdog which had lost its bite at a press conference today.

He denied Icstis was reactive rather than proactive, pointing to the investigation into Call TV Quiz Services as an example. He said the regulator could impose fines of up to £250,000 as well as other sanctions.

Graham said: "We are not some soft touch regulator and we should have our findings in a couple of weeks. If we find any evidence of suspected criminal activity we have close links with the City of London police."

Following its meeting with broadcasters, production companies and phone service providers this morning, Icstis will introduce systematic monitoring of all phone-in shows.

It also plans to launch a comprehensive licensing scheme for premium-rate providers within the next three months, complete with a quality standards mark for licensed providers.

Icstis also expects all channels to publish clear and easily understandable rules for competitions.

Graham said: "The worst thing about all this has been the public's loss of confidence. We're not about playing the blame game but about restoring the public's trust." He added that only 10 members of the public had made any complaint.

Icstis will write to all broadcasters and service providers asking them to review current and future phone-ins. Icstis wants replies to this letter within two weeks.

In other phone-in scam news, Channel 5 apologised today after it emerged that production company Endemol UK, maker of Big Brother, had failed to follow procedure when making quiz show Brainteaser.

On five separate occasions between January and Tuesday this week, when no caller got the answer to its Quick Fire quiz correct, the production company invented a false name as the winner. On one occasion a member of the production company went on air and pretended to be a winner. ®

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