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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Police may probe ITV's phone-ins
Michael Grade
Michael Grade ordered the audit of ITV's programmes
Police could investigate ITV over the latest series of premium rate phone-in scandals, Scotland Yard has said.

Shows including Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway rigged competition winners in what an audit branded a "serious cultural failure".

ITV chairman Michael Grade insisted on Radio 4's Today programme no evidence of criminal behaviour was found.

But Scotland Yard said it would consider investigating ITV if media watchdog Ofcom discovered wrongdoing.

"We will await the outcome of the regulatory body's report before any decision is made regarding an investigation," a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

Soapstar Superstar - Production team put wrong contestants up for eviction and over-rode song choices chosen by viewers
Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway - Contestants supposedly chosen at random were selected on basis of geographical convenience and other factors, including their health and fitness
Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon - Winners picked on basis of geographical convenience and whether they would be entertaining on screen, not at random
The X Factor - Some votes cast via red-button voting and SMS text during 2005 final and three episodes of 2006 series arrived too late to be included
Dancing on Ice - Some red-button and text votes received late on one occasion
I'm a Celebrity... - Voting promoted for three and a half minutes on one edition after lines had closed

No criminal investigation is being pursued at this time, he added.

Mr Grade said he was happy to hand over all of the evidence to the police, if required.

But he added: "We had lawyers watching this all the way through the Deloitte's process, and they have advised there is no evidence to support allegations of criminal behaviour."

Ofcom has already launched an investigation into the programmes highlighted by the report.

The audit, which was carried out by city firm Deloitte, identified "serious" failings within ITV after the company made 7.8 million from uncounted votes.

Some 10 million telephone calls were affected by the premium rate errors, and more than eight million callers are now eligible for refunds.

Any money not claimed will be donated to charity.

Mr Grade described the report findings as "horrible" and "inexcusable", adding that he would be happy to talk to the politicians who levelled criticisms.

Speaking on BBC One's Question Time, Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain described the phone-in problems at ITV as "almost daylight robbery".

"People were tricked and conned into getting rid of millions of pounds on an absolutely false prospectus," the MP said.

"I think the public who were robbed of their money will want to know that this will never happen again, and that those who are responsible, including on the Ant and Dec show, will be nailed."

Let's not dance around words and semantics: this is wrong
Michael Grade

He added: "I think the people that paid their money in on the basis of what they believed was the case and found their money was being smuggled away and robbed from them - that's very serious indeed."

Shadow home secretary David Davis added: "Someone made a dishonest decision. It must be possible for ITV to find this person and they should pay with their job."

And ex-Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said it was "incredible" that nobody had been sacked.

Mr Grade said he "understood" why the politicians had reacted in the way they did.

"I would ask them please to read the Deloitte findings and I am happy to discuss it with them to explain exactly how we've got here," he said.

Ant and Dec
Ant and Dec said they had not been aware of the problems

Asked if it amounted to fraud, Mr Grade added: "Let's not dance around words and semantics: this is wrong. W-R-O-N-G wrong.

"[But] the motivation was not to induce greater revenues, the motivation was to cut corners and make better shows and disregard the contract they had made with viewers."

Ant McPartlin said he and co-host Dec Donnelly were "extremely disappointed" their Takeaway show was singled out.

"We'd like to make it clear that we had no idea these problems existed," he added.

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