Channel TV was the relevant compliance licensee for the programmes and is one of the regional licensees that form the ITV network.
The company has been found in breach for the early finalising of the vote for the People’s Choice Award in the British Comedy Awards 2004 and 2005 while promoting the coverage “as live.”
It has also been fined for over-riding the viewers’ vote for the People’s Choice Award and substituting Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway for The Catherine Tate Show in the British Comedy Awards 2005.
In both 2004 and 2005 the vote for the People’s Choice Award was finalised early and the final half hour of both of these programmes was pre-recorded, although it was broadcast as live and included a number of calls to action to viewers to vote for the People’s Choice Award.
Viewers paid to vote using a premium rate service (“PRS”) mechanism and continued to do so after the winner of the People’s Choice Award had been announced despite having no chance of affecting the vote.
Channel TV admitted this breach was “entirely unintentional but nonetheless stupid”.
Ofcom says that these breaches were entirely foreseeable and were “serious, reckless and repeated”. It expressed great concern that the same failing was repeated a year later and that Channel TV’s compliance procedures had failed to spot the breaches.
Concerning the overriding of the viewers’ vote for the People’s Choice Awards by a member or members of the independent production team, Ofcom accepts that Channel TV did not itself override the viewers vote and substitute the winner.
But the TV watchdog says that Channel TV should have had safeguards in place to stop the substitution occurring. Channel TV should have been aware of the obvious risks associated with delay in the broadcast and with the possibility of poll tampering and the need for vote verification.
Ofcom says that Channel TV’s compliance procedures were either absent or totally insufficient and ineffective in preventing these breaches from occurring.
Channel TV has been fined £45,000 in respect of the “as live” breaches; and £35,000 in respect of the selection breach.
Ofcom has also directed Channel TV to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s findings on ITV1.
The decision is the latest of a series of fines handed out to broadcasters, including BBC< ITV and GMTV, following investigations into Premium Rate phone services, voting abuses and compliance issues.