Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Tuesday, 26 June 2007 17:35 UK

Five in record Brainteaser fine

Phone keypad
Ofcom have been investigating a number of TV shows

TV channel Five has been fined a record 300,000 for faking winners on its Brainteaser quiz show.

Ofcom's financial penalty is the largest to have been imposed on a public service broadcaster.

Five was found to have breached the broadcasting code on five occasions, including one instance where a crew member posed as a "winning contestant".

Viewers were charged 75p to call the premium-rate phone line and solve a word puzzle on the weekday quiz show.

When the audience failed to give the correct answer, names of fictional winners were listed on screen.

We believe Five took all reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure the programme complied with the Ofcom Code
Jane Lighting, Five

Five chief executive Jane Lighting said the broadcaster was "disappointed" by the size of the fine.

The channel has blamed production company Endemol, creators of Big Brother and makers of Brainteaser, for the problems.

"Five has always accepted that breaches occurred with regard to Brainteaser," she said in a statement.

"However, we are disappointed with the very high level of the financial penalty imposed, especially as we believe Five took all reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure the programme complied with the Ofcom Code.

"We welcome Ofcom's acknowledgment that Five acted in good faith at all times, did not intend to deceive the audience and took comprehensive steps to remedy harm, and that it was not Five's intention to cause financial harm to viewers nor procure greater financial gain.

Phone-line scandal

Ms Lighting added that it was Five who notified Ofcom of events, and added that the channel had co-operated fully with the regulator.

Endemol UK, who apologised to viewers, said the mistakes were down to "an honest but misguided attempt to keep a live show running".

It added that the company "fully acknowledge" their mistakes.

Ofcom found 11 further similar or identical instances of unfair competitions in Brainteaser and its spin-off programme Memory Bank.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said of the unprecedented fine: "We take these issues extremely seriously and will not hesitate to protect viewers' interests.

"Every broadcaster needs to take very careful note of this decision."

Ofcom is investigating several shows caught up in the premium rate phone-line scandal earlier this year.

Suspension

The issue first arose in February when it was alleged that viewers had been invited to participate in a quiz on Richard and Judy's Channel 4 show after a contestant had already been chosen.

It then emerged that the BBC One cookery show Saturday Kitchen had issued an appeal for callers to a programme that had already been recorded.

The Brainteaser situation came to light in March when Five began a review of its premium rate telephone services.

Consequently, Five suspended all programming involving premium rate telephone services.

Brainteaser will not be returning to the schedules.

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