Serious Fraud Office probes GMTV scandal

The Serious Fraud Office is examining evidence from media watchdog Ofcom in the GMTV phone-in scandal.

Ofcom fined the breakfast broadcaster £2 million in September after millions of viewers were charged to enter competitions they had no chance of winning.

The SFO has asked Ofcom to provide documents relating to the case, in order to decide whether a criminal investigation should be launched.

The SFO may also look into the latest ITV phone-in scandal, disclosed in a report on Thursday, which involved shows including Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

An SFO spokeswoman said: “Following media reports and some complaints received from the general public about GMTV’s use of premium rate telephone services, we are in touch with Ofcom although no SFO investigation is under way.

“Furthermore, the SFO will await the outcome of Ofcom’s investigation into ITV’s use of premium rate telephone services as highlighted in the Deloitte report published yesterday.”

An Ofcom spokesman confirmed they’ve received a request from the SFO “for further information on the GMTV case”.

In a report published last month, Ofcom found GMTV guilty of “gross negligence” and the “widespread and systematic deception of millions of viewers”.

Over nearly four years, viewers were encouraged to call premium rate lines even though competition winners had already been selected earlier in the programme.

Of the 62 million entries received between May 2003 and April 2007, an estimated 25 million weren’t counted.

During this time, GMTV made nearly £50 million profit from competitions.

GMTV accepted full responsibility and offered to give viewers their money back.

A GMTV spokeswoman said on Friday: “We have not been approached by the SFO but we would obviously cooperate fully if asked.”

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