TV quiz scandal claims first victim

The U.K. scandal over rigged TV quizzes has claimed its first scalp.

The managing director of breakfast TV station GMTV, 25% owned by Disney, will resign in an attempt to “restore trust” in the broadcaster.

Paul Corley, head of GMTV since 2001, will leave in September following allegations in April that GMTV’s phone quiz supplier, Opera Interactive Technology, defrauded listeners of more than $80 million by keeping phone lines open after winners had been chosen.

U.K. regulator Ofcom is likely to impose a hefty fine on GMTV following a $600,000 fine for Five, the RTL-owned station that faked winners in its “Brainteaser” show.

Corley apologized unreservedly for the errors and said it was “important that people take responsibility when mistakes are made.”

It remains to be seen if other U.K. web heads will follow Corley’s example.

ITV, which owns a 75% stake in GMTV, is awaiting the outcome of an internal probe into how its own “Call TV” services were run.

GMTV announced measures to rebuild the audience’s trust, including refunds for participants and stricter controls of quizzes.

Corley said, “I hope that my resignation, and the strong measures we have put in place, will help to restore trust in GMTV.”

He said GMTV had brought in auditing firm Deloitte to help investigate competition operations and that the station had compiled as full a database as possible of entrants who may have been excluded.

“Anyone who believes they may have been affected can contact us for free by Web or phone and apply for a refund,” he added. “The new prize draws will be held at the end of August and supervised by an independent observer, and all viewers who were not correctly entered will be eligible.”

The rigged GMTV quizzes came to light as a result of a probe by “Panorama,” the BBC’s flagship public-affairs show.

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