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Channel 4 hit by $3 million fine

U.K. watchdog acts on phone-in scandal

LONDON — U.K. web Channel 4 has been fined £1.5 million ($3 million) for misconduct in phone-in competitions in two shows — “Richard and Judy” and “Deal or No Deal.”

Ofcom, the British communications sector regulator, fined the web $2 million for irregularities in “Richard and Judy” item “You Say We Pay,” and $1 million for malpractice in the Endemol quizzer.

Auds were encouraged to continue making calls to the “You Say We Pay” contest despite contestants having already been selected. In “Deal or No Deal” finalists were chosen in a way that stacked the odds against later entrants in the competition.

Channel 4 accepted the findings and announced that it will begin legal proceedings against phone service operator Eckoh to recover costs incurred over “You Say We Pay.”

The web, ordered by Ofcom to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings, is donating a further $1.2 million to charity.

This is in addition to the $600,000 it pledged earlier this year to make reparation for the phone-in abuses.

Anne Bulford, Channel 4’s group finance director, said: “There was absolutely no intention on Channel 4’s part to mislead our viewers and we are pleased that the regulator has acknowledged our extensive efforts to make reparations since the problems came to light.”

The irregularities in “Richard and Judy” first emerged in February following an investigation by British newspaper the Mail on Sunday.

Subsequently all the British terrestrial broadcasters, including the BBC, admitted to misconduct related to premium phone-ins.

Five was fined $600,000 by Ofcom in June for irregularities in the “Brainteaser” quiz. In September, breakfast station GMTV, part-owned by Disney, was fined $4 million over widespread fraud in its phone-in competitions.

Ofcom is still to rule on ITV, which in the fall admitted to misleading auds in phone-ins in shows like “The X Factor” and “Saturday Night Takeaway,” hosted by Ant and Dec.

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