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GMTV suspends competitions, axes telco

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GMTV promised today it would reimburse viewers who made fruitless calls to its premium rate competition lines.

The breakfast TV channel cum sofa showroom said it had only become aware that some callers had no chance of ever actually making the winner's shortlist when it was contacted by the BBC's investigative programme Panorama. It said it had been "shocked and saddened by the allegations".

GMTV said after carrying out its own enquiries, there had indeed been irregularities in the way its telecoms provider Opera Interactive Technology had operated its competition lines. GMTV said it had now terminated its contract with Opera, and that its competitions would be suspended until further notice.

GMTV MD Paul Corley did some public squirming on the sofa today as he was grilled by the station's famously hard-nosed interviewer, Fiona Phillips. He said where appropriate the channel would make restitution – once it had worked out how it might actually check all the entries.

"We can't tell you how cross everyone was," he said, adding: "Not so much on our behalf, but on behalf of people out there who paid to enter the competition and trust GMTV."

Phillips, refusing to let her boss off the hook, said: "I think we all felt we'd let people down yesterday."

Corely surely spoke for the nation when he said: "We just thought this is totally wrong", and that "television should be honest, above board and particularly GMTV, which is a friend to people in the morning".

At the same time said Corely, claims that viewers had been ripped off to the tune of £40m were "nonsense" and were based on extrapolations by Panorama. ®

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