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ITV competitions breached broadcasting rules, says watchdog

The broadcaster said it ‘deeply regretted’ the errors and that the number of affected competitions represented fewer than 1%.

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ITV (Ian West/PA)

ITV (Ian West/PA)

ITV (Ian West/PA)

ITV breached broadcasting rules with several of its competitions, TV watchdog Ofcom has ruled.

Problems arose with competitions on Good Morning Britain, Lorraine, This Morning, Loose Women, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, La Vuelta and X Factor: The Band.

In “all cases, some viewers who participated using the postal entry route had no chance of being selected to win”, Ofcom said.

Some 41,252 entered ITV competitions that they had no chance of winning between 2016 and 2019.

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Ofcom (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ofcom (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Ofcom (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “Our investigation found that people who entered these competitions by post were excluded from the draw, with no chance of winning.

“ITV failed to follow proper procedures and this led to a clear breach of our rules, which require all broadcast competitions to be conducted fairly.”

The broadcaster said the problem was a result of “human error by ITV staff” putting information on to a spreadsheet.

The competitions,  on ITV, ITV2 and ITV4,  typically invite viewers to enter by phone, text message, ITV’s website or by post.

Phone, text message and online entries usually charge a premium rate, while those entering by post only pay the cost of a stamp.

ITV reviewed every broadcast competition it had conducted since 2014 after initially discovering the discrepancy.

ITV failed to follow proper procedures and this led to a clear breach of our rules, which require all broadcast competitions to be conducted fairlyOfcom

It said it “deeply regretted” the errors and that the number of affected competitions represented fewer than 1% since 2014, when it introduced postal entries.

Ofcom said it recognised “the proactive way in which ITV dealt with the issue by notifying Ofcom and immediately setting about to determine the extent and cause of the problem”.

But it said the broadcaster “failed to take reasonable care through its processes to ensure the competitions were conducted in such ways as to provide fair and consistent treatment of all eligible entries”.

ITV said it has put in place plans to improve its postal entries procedures and it intended to donate a sum of money to charity as a “mark of its sincere regret”.

In 2008, Ofcom fined ITV £5.67 million for some of the most serious breaches of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code “concerning the abuse of premium rate services in its programming”.

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: “It is beyond belief that one of our major broadcasters failed to follow proper procedures over a period of three years with more than 40,000 people duped into believing they had a chance of winning.

“These competitions were associated with some of ITV’s biggest brands, including Good Morning Britain, and ITV was right to refer itself to Ofcom with the full scale of the breach now being made clear.

“People must be able to trust our public service broadcasters – failures on this level risk damaging that trust.”

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