Despite a raft of recent high-profile scandals involving shows such as Saturday Night Takeaway, ITV has defended its use of phone-in contests.

Speaking at the launch of ITV1's winter schedule, director of television Simon Shaps said the broadcaster will not shy away from inviting viewers to enter premium rate competitions.

"I don't think we should turn the clock back," he said, while announcing a new show entitled Rock Rivals, a drama in which viewers will be able to vote on the outcome of the plot.

However, viewers will not be charged at premium rates to vote on the resolution of the drama starring Michelle Collins and Sean Gallagher, set to be shown in early 2008.

The broadcaster is estimated to be facing an £18 million fine, after an independent enquiry found "serious editorial issues" with programmes such as Gameshow Marathon, Saturday Night Takeaway and Soapstar Superstar, which allegedly earned the broadcaster millions of pounds from uncounted votes.

However Mr Shaps stood firm on the company's continued use of phone-in contests, adding: "It's a fantastic form of television, a modern form of television."

But he added: "Our first job is to make absolutely certain that when viewers vote, the outcome reflects what viewers voted for."

Mr Shaps also backed ITV chairman Michael Grade's handling of the damaging report.

"Michael has drawn a line under the incidents we have seen," he said. "It's now very clear that we have got to get our house in order. Those mistakes or errors will not be tolerated again."

As well as announcing Rock Rivals, he confirmed the rest of the ITV1 winter schedule, including the return of Stephen Fry in Kingdom, new time-travelling drama Lost in Austen and Caught in a Trap, a comedy drama about an obsessive Elvis Presley fan starring Connie Fisher, winner of the BBC's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in 2006.

15/11/2007 10:45:18