ITV is to drop this year’s British Comedy Awards following the discovery of alleged phone vote irregularities, the broadcaster has announced.

Law firm Olswang has been called in to conduct an investigation.

The alleged vote problem happened during the 2005 awards show.

A statement released by the broadcaster said: “ITV have today asked media law firm Olswang to conduct an investigation into an issue that has arisen in respect of the British Comedy Awards 2005.

“Pending conclusion of the investigation, broadcast of the British Comedy Awards 2007 will be postponed. ITV will not make any further comment regarding this matter until the conclusion of the investigation.”

The irregularities are believed to be related to the People’s Choice Award, the only one to be chosen by the public.

Viewers were asked to vote throughout the show for their favourite.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway was the winner.

The show was broadcast on either side of the 10.30pm news bulletin.

It has been alleged that the final section of the show, broadcast after the news, was taped from 10.30-11pm but shown from 11pm as if it were taking place live.

Viewers were still encouraged to phone in but their votes were worthless because the winner had already been named.

The news comes a day after the BBC admitted four new cases of viewer deception, including one involving a rigged poll to name the Blue Peter cat.