Channel 5 quiz show admits using fake winners as TV row intensifies

CHANNEL Five has been dragged into the row over premium phone quizzes on television after the broadcaster admitted some competition winners on its show Brainteaser were faked.

Producers of the popular lunchtime programme, which asks viewers to solve a word puzzle within five minutes, made up names of on-screen winners if the audience failed to get the answer. In one case, a production crew member went on air posing as a "winning contestant".

Five's chief executive, Jane Lighting, said: "We are shocked and disappointed and wish to apologise unreservedly to our viewers."

Blaming the show's production company, Cheetah, for failing to meet the network's "high standards", Ms Lighting added: "We have decided to suspend any output which involves any premium-rate services and to appoint an external auditor, though we have found no evidence involving any programmes other than Brainteaser."

Five, which was unaware of the cheating, is the latest TV network to become embroiled in a deepening controversy that threatens to shatter public confidence in how television quiz games are run.

Icstis, the premium-rate phone regulator, is investigating six shows: Channel 4's Richard and Judy; the BBC's Saturday Kitchen; ITV's entertainment series X Factor, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Soapstar Superstar and I'm A Celebrity.

Five's Brainteaser show is being investigated by Ofcom as the problems concerned editorial content rather than phone-line irregularities.

The watchdog yesterday held a crisis meeting with UK broadcasters and said the TV industry had got itself into a "pretty grim mess" over the running of phone quizzes. Those attending the meeting included the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and Sky, together with programme makers Endemol and Eckoh, the company which runs the phone lines for the Richard and Judy programme and Saturday Kitchen.

Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of Icstis, warned that the police would be called in if evidence of criminal activity was found.

The watchdog announced the creation of a licensing regime for all premium-rate service providers and said it was considering the introduction of a kite-mark to restore confidence.

"It is in everyone's interests to ensure that services are reliable and trustworthy as well as entertaining and fun," he said.

ITV announced this week that it was suspending all of the premium-rate parts of its output while an independent auditor investigated their running.

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