GMTV to reimburse competition callers

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GMTV has pledged to reimburse callers to its premium rate phone lines after admitting "irregularities" were present in its competitions.

Yesterday the ITV1 early morning entertainment programme suspended its contract with provider Opera Interactive Technology after being presented with evidence by BBC1's Panorama.

People watching Panorama last night would have seen claims that viewers entering GMTV competitions may have been conned out of up to £40 million.

The BBC documentary alleged that many of the potential entrants had no chance of winning as the finalists had been selected by Opera "long before" the phone lines were supposed to close.

Furthermore, the Panorama team claimed that such behaviour had gone on unreported for almost four years.

In a live interview on GMTV itself this morning, the show's managing director Paul Corley said he was "shocked and saddened" by the Panorama allegations.

"Not so much on our behalf, but on behalf of people out there who have paid to enter the competition and trust GMTV," he explained.

"GMTV's brand is the most important thing that we have and that trust built up over 15 years in a flash can be destroyed."

But Mr Corley said the £40 million figure quoted by Panorama was "nonsense", although he admitted he did not know how many people would need to be reimbursed and to what extent.

GMTV said yesterday that broadcast regulator Icstis was launching an enquiry into the allegations made against Opera, which denied that it had benefited financially from "any errors" it had committed.

The accusations are the latest in a string of cases regarding premium-rate phone calls to enter competitions. In the past few months, both the Richard and Judy show and children's programme Blue Peter have become embroiled in such scandals.

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