Ant & Dec At Centre of £7.8m Phone-in Scandal

Audit reveals millions of calls ignored and contests rigged

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Chiswick's much loved comedy duo Ant & Dec have found themselves at the centre of a phone in scandal.

According to The Mirror the Saturday Night Takeaway and Gameshow Marathon shows - along with Soapstar Superstar and X Factor - cheated viewers out of £7.8 million by ignoring phone votes.

Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! were both cleared of any transgression following an investigation into premium rate phone-ins earlier this year. In May the two programmes had the cases against them closed after Icstis, regulator for premium phone lines, investigated claims that they had been amongst the TV shows charging viewers for calls and texts that were not counted. It was decided that there was no evidence to support allegations against the two shows even though one of the more serious claims was one that David Gest was wrongly evicted from last year’s I’m A Celebrity after 30,000 votes for him went astray.

However, The Mirror now reports that a review discovered that shows, including Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, had fixed winners and ignored 10 million premium rate phone votes. Auditors Deloitte looked at 60 shows and found "serious editorial issues" in three. They reportedly found that winners in Jiggy Bank contest during 2005 and 2006 were rigged, only viewers who lived within an hour of that week's location would be eligible, ignoring calls worth £4 million and that winners were also fixed for Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon Prize Mountain in 2005, ignoring calls worth £2.3 million.

After announcing that there would be "zero tolerance" of such scams during the initial investigations, ITV's Michael Grade said that no one would be losing their jobs over the latest scandal.

Ant & Dec have denied all knowledge of the issue despite being executive producers of the shows. In a statement they said, "We are deeply upset about what the review uncovered. However, we welcome the full disclosure of these problems, not least because we can be sure that our viewers have the opportunity to get their money back. The way our viewers and fans have been treated simply isn't acceptable and we are truly sorry."

ITV have agreed to their proposal that profits from the next series of Takeaway should be given to charity.

The News of the World is reporting that the pair are furious with ITV head Michael Grade's comment that their role as executive producers on the show was a 'vanity credit' and they plan to quit Saturday Night Takeaway after the next series.

Ofcom has launched an inquiry into the programmes highlighted by the report.


October 21, 2007