ITV criticised over F1 phone-in comp

Tuesday, December 22 2009, 12:28 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

Ofcom has criticised ITV for failing to declare a winner of a Formula One phone-in competition last year, but also opted against punishing the broadcaster.

The media regulator yesterday rebuked ITV for its serious breach of the broadcasting code and further slammed the firm for not flagging up the transgression for eight months.

The breach occurred during ITV's coverage of the Brazilian Grand Prix on November 2, 2008, when around 139,000 people entered a 1 premium rate phone line competition or submitted their details for free on ITV's website.

ITV, however, failed to check with competition organiser Eckoh to see if a winner had been drawn and notified. It was not until July the following year that the broadcaster realised the mistake and contacted Ofcom.

In response, ITV successfully argued that the problem was not widespread across all its competitions and was merely the "result of human error on a single occasion".

Despite acknowledging that ITV "acted in good faith at all times", Ofcom ruled that the breach was of a serious nature and should therefore be placed on permanent record.

In its verdict, the regulator said: "The error in not awarding a prize did not emerge for some months and affected a relatively large competition. To that extent the licensee's [ITV] systems, requirements for which exist within its licence, could not have been sufficient in this particular case."

To redress the situation, ITV set up a full refunds process and publicised the campaign during England's football game against Slovenia on September 5.

A new draw was organised to award the still outstanding prize and the company also "tightened its procedures for prize allocation in light of the incident".