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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 15:09 GMT


Quiz 'winner' keeps his prize

Chris Tarrant at the show's launch last year

Quiz show contestant Tony Kennedy has been told he can keep the £125,000 he won on ITV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? programme - even though he got a vital question wrong.

Production company Celador has launched an investigation into the incident, which centres on a question about the game of 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 warehouseman from Blackpool gave the answer as option B - 24 strokes, and was told he was correct.

But the correct answer was option A - 12 strokes.

Celador has decided to honour the prize - and Mr Kennedy, whose wife Julie is expecting their second child, has decided to spend the cash on double-glazing for their home.

No plans for a flash car

A producer from the programme called him late on Monday night to tell him the news - and to expect "controversy" in the morning papers.

He said he was "shattered" to hear of the error, but after a day of anguish was delighted when Celador called to apologise and tell him he could keep the money.

"I feel absolutely brilliant. I've been up and down emotionally all day.

"This is just amazing. I am going to blow some on double glazing now. But I've got no plans to move house or buy a flash car. It has been an horrific day, but this is the best ending."

Error quickly spotted

Sharp-minded viewers leapt to their telephones when the error was broadcast - 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."

Celador 'deeply regrets' mistake

The programme's executive producer Paul Smith said: "This unfortunate mistake was our responsibility. In spite of the original question being checked by three separate people against three separate sources, this mistake got through.

"As a consequence of this, we have strengthened our checking procedure to ensure an error like this does not happen again.

"We deeply regret the situation and will, of course, honour the £125,000 win by the contestant."

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 programme has quickly become British TV's most popular quiz show - with Sunday night's programme attracting 18.8m viewers according to overnight figures. At least 1.7m viewers applied to become contestants for the last series.

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