ITV is embroiled in an integrity row after the broadcaster admitted that some postal competition entries have been accidentally omitted from prize draws.
Ofcom has instigated an investigation into the matter after an internal audit prompted ITV to report itself to the broadcast watchdog.
On six occasions, the audit found that some viewers who submitted contest entries by postal vote were unable to win.
ITV viewers are charged £2 to enter competitions advertised on programmes including This Morning, The X Factor and Loose Women if they submit their entry via text message, phone or online. Postal entries, however, are free.
According to ITV, six competitions were identified between 2014 and 2019 in which postal votes were excluded, which represented a “very small proportion” of the total entries.
The omissions are allegedly the result of “isolated incidences of unintentional administrative errors”. The broadcaster has not named the competitions involved.
In a statement provided to The Times, a spokesperson said: “The integrity of all viewer competitions run by ITV is a priority for us, therefore any related error is taken seriously.
“The six competitions amount to roughly one third of one per cent of our competitions since 2014, and a tiny fraction of total entries.”
Ofcom has the option to impose fines of up to £250,000 or five per cent of annual revenue (whichever is greater), once its investigation into ITV is complete.
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ITV has reportedly used computer software to simulate all six compromised competitions, and has determined that none of the overlooked postal entries was denied a prize.
ITV came under criticism in 2007 for making millions from premium rate phone-ins on series such as Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. It was revealed that participants’ entries were being ignored, despite being told their vote would influence the programme.
At the time, Ofcom ordered ITV to pay £5.675m, a record sanction imposed on a broadcaster by the watchdog.
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