ITV Suspends Services For Accuracy Audit

A few days ago I blogged about how a data entry slip-up had apparently caused ITV customers to be overcharged £200,000. Whenever they used their remotes to vote on the popular X-Factor show, they were charged 50p instead of the correct charge of 35p. Now it seems that the quality of controls over all premium rate services linked to ITV shows are under scrutiny; see this story. This means that some programmes with formats heavily dependent on viewers voting or calling in will be taken off air until the relevant call charges have been audited. See here for a video clip from the rival BBC commenting on the story.

The amazing thing here is that a national broadcaster can put such a cheap price on its own reputation. The cost of sensible checks to catch errors immediately is trivial compared to the £200,000 overcharge caused as the problem goes unnoticed for months. Engaging Deloittes to check their rates are correct will not come cheaply (I used to work there and so have a good idea of the hefty margins they will be charging on this kind of work). And £200,000 is trivial compared to the potential loss of revenue. ITV makes around £20m every year from its late night phone-in quiz show. So you can assume that each night the show is not on air will cost ITV roughly £100,000 in lost revenues. In addition, viewers will tune in tonight, find that their favourite shows are not on air, and realise that their confidence in being charged correctly may have been misplaced. In fact, a certain proportion of customers will only now fully realise how much they have been spending to interact with their favourite television shows.

The only winners from this are, oddly, Virgin Media (formerly ntl-Telewest). If they had succeeded in buying ITV last year, it presumably would be Richard Branson making the excuses for failure and seeing the Virgin brand get tarnished almost as soon as the rebranding exercise had begun. Their revenue assurance team will be breathing a sigh of relief that this mess did not get dumped on them. So Branson has (a small) reason to thank Murdoch for blocking the ITV bid after all. But tomorrow they will all be double-checking that they have no similar problems within their own businesses. A lot of RA people are going to find themselves very popular in the next few days…..

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.