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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 10:54 GMT


ITV's £64,000 blunder

Chris Tarrant: His show has attracted up to 18m viewers

Quiz show contestant Tony Kennedy is thanking his lucky stars - after winning £125,000 on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? programme - despite getting a question wrong.

Production company Celador has launched an investigation into the incident, which centres on a question asked about tennis.

Contestants on the programme, which has become an enormous ratings success for ITV since its introduction last year, win increasing amounts of money by answering 15 multiple-choice questions of varying difficulty, with a top prize of £1m.

Host Chris Tarrant asked Mr Kennedy this question for £64,000: "Theoretically, what is the minimum number of strokes with which a tennis player can win a set?"

The 29-year-old gave the answer as option B - 24 strokes, and was told he was correct.

But the correct answer was option A - 12 strokes.

Error quickly spotted

Sharp-minded viewers leapt to their telephones - and within minutes producers were well aware of the blunder. Newspapers were also tipped off - as was BBC News Online.

Reader Jason Stoakley was among those who spotted the error.

He explains: "To qualify as a minimum, the set would need to be won 6-0 with each game consisting of only four points.

"Of these six games the winning player only serves three times. So 3 games x 4 points = 12 strokes, and not 24.

"The other three games are lost by the opponent who serves 12 double faults - the winning player does not take part in these points."

A Celador spokesman said: "Having reviewed the question, we recognise that in a particular situation this can be done with 12 strokes."

'We operate a rigorous procedure'

If Kennedy had been told he was wrong he still would have won £32,000. But he went on to scoop a £125,000 prize thanks to the error.

The spokesman added: "We operate a rigorous procedure involving three points of reference for verifying each question.

"We are investigating how this procedure has failed, to ensure that a similar mishap does not happen again."

The programme is being shown to help launch ITV's new schedule following the scrapping of News At Ten last week.

Sunday night's programme attracted 18.8m viewers according to overnight figures, its highest ratings yet. Viewers videotaping the show could push the ratings over the 19m mark. Together with an hour-long Coronation Street special, it helped ITV to its best Sunday night figures in five years, excluding World Cup football.

For the previous series in January, at least 1.7m viewers dialled a premium rate number to apply to become contestants on the show, with the proceeds helping swell the show's huge prize fund.

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