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Channel 4 quiz programme cheating viewers?

Richard and Judy programme You Say, We Pay on Channel 4 suspected of tricking viewers into calling after potential winners chosen.

February 19, 2006

United Kingdom’s Channel 4 television channel is facing serious allegations that the Richard And Judy show is systematically cheating viewers out of tens of thousands of pounds in a premium-rate phone quiz scam.

Each day, an average of 15,000 viewers pay £1 a time to enter the programme’s popular daily competition, You Say, We Pay.

But e-mails leaked to newspapers reveal that the husband-and-wife team encourages thousands of viewers to do so after the potential winners have already been chosen.

In the week beginning February 5, 2007, over 32,000 people were tricked into believing that they had a chance of competing for a cash prize, according to the documents.

If that figure were to be repeated every week for the duration of the current nine-month series, it would translate to around £1 million for Channel 4 and Cactus TV, the makers of the programme.

On Friday, the competition was pulled off air within hours of The Mail on Sunday presenting the TV company with a series of detailed allegations.

Judy Finnigan told viewers it was because of a “technical problem with our telephone supplier” and added that she hoped the competition would be back soon.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of MPs has promised to investigate the claims. One of its members, Labour MP Rosemary McKenna, said: “This is shocking. We published a report on quiz TV channels and found that they were seriously misinforming people, but even they didn’t go as far as asking viewers to call after a winner had been selected.”

The phone line is run by service provider Eckoh, whose employees use a computer to randomly select 24 potential winners from callers who ring within the first five to seven minutes of the show going on air.

By 5.10 p.m. their job is done, yet viewers are not told to stop calling. In fact, the viewers are actively encouraged to ring in again at 5.19 p.m., when the premium-rate number is flashed up on screen for a second time.

Icstis, the premium-rate services regulator, also promised an inquiry and described the allegation as “very serious.” It said its code of practice includes a clause “dealing with misleading statements.”

Ultimately, it could present Cactus and Channel 4 with a refund bill. The scandal comes as a devastating blow to Judy and her husband Richard Madeley, whose huge success and popularity is based around their cosy rapport with viewers.

There is no evidence to suggest that they had any knowledge of the alleged deception and their spokesman insisted that they do not profit from the calls.

The revelations are equally disastrous for Channel 4 which has endured fierce criticism over the past weeks over the Big Brother phone-in debacle in which viewers paid 50p a call to vote housemates out – only to see four of them return.

Cactus is run by Simon Ross, brother of BBC talk show host Jonathan, and his wife Amanda. Amanda produces the show on behalf of Channel 4.

The premium-line quiz show format is extremely lucrative for broadcasters, but some of the programmes have attracted criticism from Chancellor Gordon Brown for exploiting the poor.

Financial Mail had on Sunday led the way in highlighting the problem of television quiz shows such as The Mint, which use premium-rate numbers to make millions for broadcasters at the expense of viewers.






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