Phone Watchdog To Probe Big Brother Furore
Channel 4 Viewers Could Get £3m Refund
Premium rate phone watchdog Ictis has announced it is launching an official investigation into the Big Brother controversy. Icstis said it had received 2,700 complaints about the stunt, which gives evicted contestants the chance to win the Channel 4 reality show.
The broadcaster provoked a furore when it decided to allow an ex-housemate, already booted out by paid-for public votes, the possibility of scooping the £100,000 final prize. Now Channel 4 could end up refunding an estimated £3 million to viewers who voted by phone or text message.
Icstis could also decide to fine Big Brother's premium rate service providers up to £250,000 or that their premium rate lines should be barred. Alternatively, it could decide that there has been no breach of guidelines and no case to answer.
The regulator will examine evidence from complainants and service providers Minick, which runs the mobile shortcode text vote facility, and ITouch, which offers the 090 telephone voting.
The investigation is expected to take less than 12 weeks.
If the service providers are ordered to refund users the costs of their calls or text messages they in turn could ask Channel 4 to reimburse them.
Viewers were asked to select four evictees to move into the house next door to the main Big Brother house this week, resulting in the return of Mikey, Grace, Lea and Nikki.