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'X Factor' final hit by phone scandal

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'X Factor' final hit by phone scandal
Deloitte's investigation into ITV's use of premium rate services in its television programmes has found "serious editoral issues" in three shows and "serious technical issues" with two other shows, one of which was the 2005 final of The X Factor.

Deloitte investigated over 60 ITV series and found three "key areas of failure" in the ways premium rate services were integrated into the broadcaster's programming.

Firstly, it was found that "programme producers, staff and supporting companies did not always recognise or respect the impact of editorial actions on the integrity of interactive elements". In addition, Deloitte found a "lack of agreed and consistently applied procedures, controls and ways of working between the many parties involved in the process" and that "supporting technology, in the most part supplied by third party suppliers, [lacked] the reliability and resilience consistently to deliver the required level of service".

"Serious editorial issues" were found in this year's run of Soapstar Superstar, the 2005 and 2006 seasons of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, and the 2005 run of Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon.

"Serious technical issues" with red button and SMS voting were identified on five occasions in two shows including The X Factor's 2005 final, although Deloitte said that on "none of these occasions did the problems alter the actual outcome of those votes".

ITV has put in place a refund scheme whereby affected consumers will be offered refunds if they claim before February 29, 2008. Consumers who think they have been affected by the problems should phone ITV on 0800 028 0180 or go to a dedicated website.

ITV estimates that the total potential reimbursement is £7.8m; any difference between that, which is almost double the amount ITV received from the calls, and the total amount actually claimed, will be donated to charity.

The broadcaster has estimated that its 2007 books will be hit with an £18m exceptional operating charge pertaining to the problems with premium rate services.

From today, all SMS and red button voting in live programmes has been suspended. Telephony service provision will be brought in-house for programmes made by ITV Productions, and training will be offered on compliance and responsibility. A dedicated interactive governance team will be set up "to ensure maintenance of industry leading standards and the probity of all interactive services across ITV".

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said: "Today marks a major milestone in our efforts to restore public trust and put our house in order after a series of events that have affected not just us, but the entire broadcasting industry."

> Click here for Michael Grade's statement in full

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