September 24, 2007 / 3:33 PM / 10 years ago

Phone company fined in GMTV scandal

LONDON (Reuters) - A company that ran competitions for broadcaster GMTV has been fined a record 250,000 pounds after viewers lost an estimated 20 million pounds in a phone-in scandal over almost four years.

GMTV, which had allowed viewers to enter competitions they had no chance of winning, said in July its managing director would stand down over the problem. The company, Opera Telecom, has also been sacked by the broadcaster.

Regulator Icstis said it had imposed its maximum fine of 250,000 pounds on competition phone service provider Opera after it allowed at least 18 million callers to enter competitions they had no chance of winning.

A row over fake TV involving the deliberate deception of viewers has engulfed all major broadcasters this year but Icstis described the GMTV case as the worst it had seen in terms of the number of consumers affected and the amount of money at stake.

GMTV said it would offer refunds to entrants who were wrongly excluded, donate money to charity and hold free prize draws.

GMTV is 75 percent owned by commercial broadcaster ITV and 25 percent by Walt Disney. Media regulator Ofcom is conducting its own review into GMTV.

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