Ofcom prepares to issue record penalty

LONDON — U.K. breakfast web GMTV is confronting a record fine of some $5.6 million over rigged phone quizzes on its shows.

GMTV, owned by ITV and Disney in a 75/25 split, took an estimated $90 million over four years from audiences participating in phone quizzes. But many of those who dialed in had no hope of winning because the web kept the lines open after the quizzes had closed.

Media regulator Ofcom is likely to impose the maximum financial penalty — up to 5% of qualifying revenue — on GMTV. That amounts to $5.6 million in GMTV’s case.

GMTV managing director Paul Corley has already resigned over the furor, which has hit all of Blighty’s terrestrial webs.

Five, owned by RTL, was fined $600,000 earlier this year, while the BBC forked out $100,000 — both for running fraudulent phone quizzes.

Meanwhile, ITV announced it is axing its ITV Play call-TV programming, which relies on phone-in quizzes and similar content, because the public no longer trusts such services.

In a statement, ITV said: “ITV Play’s call-TV programming will be phased out by the end of this year as negative publicity following compliance problems across the sector has seen call volumes drop to uneconomic levels.”

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