Fine for Channel TV over ‘ITV fixing’

Ofcom has today fined Channel TV a total of £80,000 after the British Comedy Awards shows broadcast on ITV1 in 2004 and 2005 broke broadcasting rules.

CTV placed the programme on the ITV schedules, and despite being produced by an independent production company for the network, Channel Television therefore are the compliance licensee for the programme and one of the regional licensees that form the ITV network. CTV is often used by larger regions such as Granada and Carlton to air shows as Ofcom fines are based on the size of the region broadcasting the programme, and with the Channel Islands being the smallest of the regional offerings from ITV receive the smallest fine when things go wrong.

Channel TV have been found in breach of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code and the ITC Programme Code for:

• The early finalising of the vote for the People’s Choice Award in the British Comedy Awards 2004 and 2005 (‘as live’ breaches); and

• The over-riding of the viewers’ vote for the People’s Choice Award and substituting a different winner in the British Comedy Awards 2005.

Ofcom state that in both 2004 and 2005 the vote for the People’s Choice Award was finalised early. The final half hour of both these programmes broadcast after the ITV News at 22:30 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. However, in real time, the People’s Choice Award had already been awarded.

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.

The Catherine Tate Show was diddled a gong deliberately.

Channel TV admitted this breach was ‘entirely unintentional but nonetheless stupid’. Despite the obvious nature of the ‘as live’ breach, Channel TV failed to anticipate it in advance of the broadcast of the British Comedy Awards 2004, nor did it identify it during or after the broadcast. It then repeated the same breach in British Comedy Awards 2005.

These breaches were entirely foreseeable and were serious, reckless and repeated. The fact that the same failing was repeated a year later was of great concern to Ofcom. Importantly, had Channel TV adequately carried out its role to ensure compliance then the breaches would have been avoided.

Viewers were led to believe that the People’s Choice Award would be awarded to the nominee with the highest number of viewer votes cast during the programme. However, the result of the viewer vote was deliberately overridden.

At the time when the award was made, The Catherine Tate Show had the highest number of votes but the award was given to Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway following a decision by a member or members of the independent production team to change the winner. Ofcom accepts that Channel TV did not itself override the viewers vote and substitute the winner.

Saturday Night Takeaway took an award that wasn’t legitimately won.

However, Ofcom have come to the conclusion 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.

Its failure to take even rudimentary steps to ensure that safeguards were in place increased the ease with which the deception could occur. In relation to both types of breach, it was clear to Ofcom that CTV’s compliance procedures were either absent or totally insufficient and ineffective in preventing these breaches from occurring.

“Ofcom is very concerned that it appeared that Channel TV did not, and still does not, properly appreciate the extent of its responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the Codes. Having considered the representations made by Channel TV, the Sanctions Committee decided to impose a financial penalty on Channel TV of £80,000 which comprises of £45,000 in respect of the ‘as live’ breaches; and £35,000 in respect of the selection breach. In addition Ofcom has directed Channel TV to broadcast a summary of Ofcom’s its findings on ITV1.” – Ofcom statement

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