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GMTV viewers spunking 45k a day in ‘wasted’ premium rate calls

‘It just runs and runs,’ commented Steve who sent me this link. I was reading about it today in the Telegraph. Deary me. The industry is getting the Panorama treatment, it really is. This time it’s Opera Telecom, not Eckokokoh, who are in the hot seat. More below……. I thought we’d got over this, I really did.

Link: BBC NEWS | UK | Viewers ‘lose millions’ to GMTV

Callers to premium-rate phone competitions on the GMTV breakfast show have been defrauded out of millions of pounds, a BBC investigation has found.

Panorama found a company working for GMTV had been finalising shortlists of potential winners “long before” phone lines closed, for the past four years.

GMTV has moved to suspend all phone-in quizzes, but said it was confident it had not breached regulators’ codes.

The phone operator, Opera Interactive Technology, denied any wrongdoing.

Panorama said tens of thousands of callers have been paying £1.80 a time to enter the competition – but as many as half had no chance of winning.

The programme estimated that since 2003 callers had wasted £45,000 a day – or £10m a year – entering competitions where Opera had finalised shortlists of potential winners before phone lines closed.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

8 replies on “GMTV viewers spunking 45k a day in ‘wasted’ premium rate calls”

If what Mark Nuttall is alleged by Panorama to have written to staff in an email in 2003 turns out to be true and proven then… well I am no lawyer or expert on the law of fraud but it is all very potentially damaging…

Part of me wants this to all go away quietly before damage is done for us all in this industry. But then we also have to route out the bad apples and in this day and age I’m afraid that can only be done openly and publicly.

oh sigh…..


Rumours rumours.. word on the street from a couple of people I know in the TV biz is that Channel 4 have been investigating this too. Their ‘Dispatches’ programme is due to lift the lid on this and more – and apparently makes Panorama’s allegations look like a tea party.

Like smoking, gambling, paying for bottled water and so on, this looks like yet another tax on stupidity to me…

Maybe that’s being a bit harsh – your old nan may be addicted to GMTV ‘quizzes’ and she’s patently not stupid, because that would make you a second-generation quiz-participant. Maybe you are from a long line of quiz participants, who knows?

The media will spend weeks in a lather over this matter, which is really of no import at all in the wider picture, without ever actually asking ‘had the shortlist stayed open longer, how much more likely would be to win the prize’?

My guess? maybe they would have gone from one-in-a-million to one-in-half-a-million. Odds which, if you applied the same expectation of ‘winning’ to real-world likelihoods like getting hit by a bus or a falling piano, would see you never leaving your house.

England, IMHO, is sleepwalking toward Pete Townshend’s vision of ‘GridLife’ , where you all sit in your GridSuits and have experiences piped to you in the comfort of your own homes. Never venture out, never take risk, never need to exert yourself.

I may be in the mobile industry, but SMS voting as Mogadon for the masses? Let’s not kid ourselves that this is actually important.



It doesn’t do anything for the public reputation of the industry though 😐

For some reason the posting faries stripped out my RantOn & RantOff ‘tags’ to show a personal bias here, so apologies if that looked like it was more an issue for me & my therapist 😉

I don’t think it’s tarnishing the mobile industry – this voting could have been done via other means – it’s our fault for being too damn convenient. I think the clear message is that it’s the dodgy middlemen, not the ‘mobile’ industry.

On the flipside, it’s doing wonders for the credibility of the BBC’s independant journalistic structure and right to criticise internally. Long live the Beeb. Could anyone see Fox News or any other Evil Empire conglomerate having its own internal journos expose something like this?

Dodgy phone and text lines have been part of the premium telephony industry for a while, you only have to look at to see that the premium telephony industry has it’s fair share of chancers and fraudsters. The key difference is that now this is television. It’s not dirty chat lines found in the classified ads in the red-tops. It’s average people being defrauded by the TV brands they trust. The brands they trust to give them unbiased news, accurate information and fair entertainment.

My concern in all this, is the damage it is going to do to legitimate services and not just premium SMS. What about companies who are looking to embrace mobile services like two way SMS for the first time but are just put off because of the bad feeling surrounding SMS that these stories create.

It is beholdent on all of us in the mobile industry to insist on compliance by all of our clients. We must provide them the tools and the services that ensure trust is rebuilt among the users.

The success of interactive SMS in the broadcast sector has done a lot to raise the profile of SMS in the business sector. Everyone is, after all, a consumer. We need to make sure that it doesn’t go on to ruin it.

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