GMTV hit by 40m phone-in scandal

GMTV, the ITV1 flagship breakfast show, has become the latest programme to become embroiled in the premium-rate phone-in scandal following a BBC investigation. Allegations that it has “fleeced viewers” of up to £40m will be made in tonight’s Panorama.

The show will claim that Opera Interactive Technology, which works for GMTV, has been finalising shortlists of potential winners “long before” phone lines closed, for the past four years. It estimates people spent £45,000 a day – or £10m a year – trying to enter the GMTV competitions.

Panorama says tens of thousands of calls and texts had been made to GMTV competitions every morning since 2003, but Opera had finalised shortlists of potential winners before the phone lines closed.

It further alleges Opera sales director Mark Nuttall had discovered what was going on in 2003 and sent an e-mail to staff telling them to keep it secret from GMTV.

GMTV, which is co-owned by ITV and Disney, has suspended all phone-in quizzes but says it is “confident” it has not breached regulators’ codes. Opera also denies any wrongdoing.

In a statement, GMTV said the Panorama investigation had uncovered “certain irregularities” in the way Opera had managed its interactive services but GMTV had not been aware of these irregularities.

GMTV says it conducted an independent review last month into its and Opera’s interactive systems and processes. It was carried out by consultancy Deloitte.

The claims made by Panorama are the latest in a series of allegations concerning the use by TV broadcasters of premium-rate phone lines to raise revenue.

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