Richard and Judy investigated in rigged phone-in claim

Channel 4 television show Richard & Judy is being investigated after claims that its phone-in show is rigged. A newspaper revealed at the weekend that the game continues to accept £1 phone entries after that day's participants have been picked.

The You Say, We Pay game is a version of charades where the viewer describes a picture for married hosts Judy Finnegan and Richard Madeley who have to guess the picture from the viewer's description.

A £1 phone line is the method of entry to the quiz, and viewers are encouraged throughout the show to enter. Weekend press reports revealed, though, that a shortlist of 24 entrants was sent by the phone competition company to the television show's producers at 5.09pm from which the contestant would be picked.

Despite the fact that subsequent callers could not have got on to that shortlist for a chance to play and win the quiz, another call for entries was made on air at 5.19pm. Emails leaked to the press show that in one week 32,000 people who had no chance of becoming that day's contestant phoned into the show.

The competition did not run last Friday and the competition is now being investigated by the premium rate phone number regulator ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services).

"The allegations, published in The Mail On Sunday on 18 February 2007, claim that potential winners are randomly selected from callers who ring within the first five to seven minutes of the show," said an ICSTIS statement. "Despite this, viewers are not told to stop calling and are, in fact, actively encouraged to keep on dialling the premium rate number."

"ICSTIS is currently in the process of gathering evidence from Eckoh Technologies (UK) Ltd (the premium rate service provider regulated by ICSTIS), Cactus TV (the production company) and Channel 4 to assist its investigation. It has also asked The Mail On Sunday for its evidence. ICSTIS’ investigation centres on paragraph 5.4.1 of its Code of Practice, which states that services and promotional material must not "mislead, or be likely to mislead in any way".

"We take these claims seriously and will be investigating them fully," said a Channel 4 statement. "Channel 4 is committed to ensuring all our on-air competitions are conducted fairly and transparently and we reject any suggestion that we would knowingly mislead viewers in any way."

"Channel 4 engages a specialist service provider to operate the phone lines, administer the competition and put forward the names of potential winners to the production company, Cactus TV," it said. "Our contract with the service provider clearly states they must comply fully with the codes that govern competitions of this nature, drawn up by ICSTIS."

ICSTIS recently conducted a review of premium rate competitions on television and said that they should warn callers each time they spend £10 or more and also tell them how small the chances were that they would end up on air.

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