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ITV fined millions for phone fraud

Unprecedented Ofcom smackdown

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ITV must pay £5.67m in fines for misleading viewers using its premium rate phonelines - the largest fine regulator Ofcom has ever imposed.

The broadcaster will also pay out £7.8m in viewer compensation and to charity.

The bulk of the fine was earned by Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, which must pay £3m for misleading viewers in relation to three different competitions. The Geordie twosome's show Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon was fined a further £1.2m.

ITV has received 2,652 completed claims forms and has paid out £9,718. It is still processing a further 80 forms potentially worth £356. The unclaimed millions will go to more than 50 UK charities.

Ofcom is conducting a separate investigation into the 2005 British Comedy Awards. ITV asked law firm Olswang to investigate the show.

Olswang's preliminary investigation reveals that the People's Choice Award, supposedly chosen by public vote, was wrongly given to Saturday Night Takeaway.

It should have gone to The Catherine Tate Show which had the most public votes when the winner was announced. The show was interrupted by the news and then broadcast "as live" afterwards, but people were still encouraged to vote for an award which had already been handed over.

Odder still, the lawyers reveal that Robbie Williams was asked to present an award and said he would only do so if he could present it to Ant and Dec. He was assured that would be the case even though at that time the jury awards had all been chosen and Ant and Dec had not won.

The lawyer's statement reads:

As such it was an assurance that could not legitimately have been guaranteed as the only award still to be decided was the People's Choice Award, the winner of which was then unknown and dependant upon the public vote. While it can be concluded that the assurance was given to ensure Robbie Williams' attendance to present an award, it can not be concluded that this was the reason why the wrong winner of the People's Choice Award was announced.

Finally, and for the avoidance of doubt, there is no suggestion that Robbie Williams, Anthony McPartlin or Declan Donnelly were aware of any of these issues.

Nor do we know if Catherine Tate is bovvered. ®

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