SFO to Look at Phone-In Scam; Findings May Lead to Criminal Investigation

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anita Singh

GMTV faces a possible criminal investigation after the Serious Fraud Office said it was reviewing evidence relating to the broadcaster's phone-in scandal.

Last month Ofcom fined GMTV a record pounds 2m after millions of viewers were charged to enter competitions they had no chance of winning.

The SFO yesterday asked Ofcom to provide documents relating to the case, in order to decide whether an investigation should be launched.

And it may also look into the latest ITV phone-in fiasco, which involved shows including Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and Gameshow Marathon.

On Thursday Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly said they were "extremely disappointed" by the news and McPartlin said: "We'd like to make it clear that we had no idea these problems existed."

An SFO spokeswoman said: "Following media reports and some complaints received from the general public about GMTV's use of premium rate telephone services, we are in touch with Ofcom although no SFO investigation is under way.

"Furthermore, the SFO will await the outcome of Ofcom's investigation into ITV's use of premium rate telephone services as highlighted in the Deloitte report published yesterday."

An Ofcom spokesman confirmed: "We have received a request from the Serious Fraud Office for further information on the GMTV case. We will be co-operating fully."

In a damning report published last month, Ofcom found GMTV guilty of "gross negligence" and the "widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers".

Over a period of nearly four years, viewers were encouraged to call premium rate phone lines even though competition winners had already been selected earlier in the programme. …