Premium rate services watchdog ICSTIS is to introduce a licensing system for service providers running votelines and quiz services in conjunction with broadcasters. As ICSTIS announced the move, which could also see the introduction of an industry kite-mark scheme, Five suspended all programming involving premium rate telephony after producer Endemol informed the broadcaster that a subsidiary, Cheetah Television, had faked the results of a quiz on afternoon show Brainteaser.
ICSTIS hosted a crisis summit of broadcasters and premium rate services providers aimed at finding ways of restoring confidence in the sector after revelations surfaced of TV quizzes that kept viewers calling after winners had already been selected. ICSTIS?which confirmed it was investigating Channel 4's Richard and Judy, the BBC's Saturday Kitchen, and ITV entertainment series X Factor, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Soapstar Superstar and I'm A Celebrity?said it would write to all broadcasters by the end of Monday asking them to follow ITV's lead and thoroughly review all premium rate services.
ICSTIS chairman Sir Alistair Graham said broadcasters had got themselves into a "pretty grim mess". "There is no doubt that the public thoroughly enjoys taking part in premium rate competitions and votes on television. However, there is equally no doubt that public trust and confidence in these services has been damaged by the allegations that have been made in the last few weeks. It is in everyone's interest to ensure that services are reliable and trustworthy as well as entertaining and fun. Ensuring viewers get a fair deal is ICSTIS' absolute priority."
Graham said problems at Five were an issue for media regulator Ofcom. Ofcom confirmed it was investigating the Five allegations. Announcing the premium rate suspension Five CEO Jane Lighting said: "We are shocked and disappointed and wish to apologise unreservedly to our viewers. The production company involved has failed to meet the high standards we demand of our suppliers. We have decided to suspend any output which involves any premium rate services and to appoint an external auditor, though we have found no evidence of any issues involving any programmes other than Brainteaser."
Five said Cheetah Television and Endemol had admited five separate incidents, dating from January until Tuesday this week, when instead of declaring there had been no winner of a particular Brainteaser quiz, the production company "put fictional names on screen as 'winners' and on one occasion a member of the production team went on air as a 'winning' contestant". Five said it would give callers to those five quizzes a full refund.
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