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ITV cheats viewers out of $15.6 mil

Report reveals malpratice

LONDON — ITV has admitted that some 10 million telephone calls to flagship shows like “The X Factor” and “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway” had been affected by errors involving phone voting.

As a result viewers were out of pocket to the tune of £7.8 million ($15.6 million) because they had no chance of winning, according to an inquiry commissioned by ITV from Deloitte.

Despite what the web’s executive chairman Michael Grade described as “horrible” and “inexcusable,” the topper said there would be no “token scalps” as a result of the report’s findings.

He did, however, admit that disciplinary action had been taken against those responsible, but refused to name any individuals.

Admitting that the Deloitte inquiry made “deeply uncomfortable reading,” Grade said auds would be reimbursed and that any unclaimed coin would be donated to charity.

How the calls would be traced was not immediately clear.

Grade said that a “serious cultural failure within ITV” had led to the broadcaster continuing to take calls although votes had been closed and other errors.

Staff had been misguided but “not venal” and their motivation was “to get a better show” on air.

However, any future transgressions would lead to the sack. Grade said: “We need to change the culture. The consequences from here on in will be severe — one strike and you’re out.”

Significantly, ITV revealed the findings of the Deloitte report on the day the BBC announced big job cuts leading to accusations that the web had deliberately tried to bury bad news.

ITV is almost certain to be fined by Ofcom, the U.K. media regulator, over the malpractice involving phone-ins.

Last month, breakfast station GMTV, owned 75% by ITV, was fined a record $4 million over phone-in quiz fraud.