Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (UK game show)
|Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?|
Titlecard for the 2018, 20th Anniversary series of Who Wants to be a Millionaire
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||31|
|No. of episodes||599 (as of 11 May 2018)|
|Running time||30–75 minutes|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Picture format||4:3 (1998–99)|
|Original release||Original series:|
4 September 1998 – 11 February 2014
5 May 2018 – present
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a British quiz show, created and produced by David Briggs, and made for the ITV network. The show's format, devised by Briggs, sees contestants taking on multiple-choice questions, based upon general knowledge, winning a cash prize for each question they answer correctly, with the amount offered increasing as they take on more difficult questions. To assist each contestant who takes part, they are given three lifelines to use, may walk away with the money they already have won if they wish not to risk answering a question, and are provided with a safety net that grants them a guaranteed cash prize if they give an incorrect answer, provided they reach a specific milestone in the quiz.
The original series aired for 30 series and a total of 592 episodes, from 4 September 1998 to 11 February 2014, and was presented by Chris Tarrant. Over the course of its run, the original series had around five contestants walk away with the top cash prize of £1 million, and faced a number of controversies during its run, including an attempt to defraud the show of its top prize by a contestant. The original format of the programme was tweaked in later years, changing the number of questions from fifteen to twelve and altering the payout structure as a result, and later incorporating a time limit.
Four years after the original series ended, ITV announced that the series would be revived, this time produced by Stellify Media, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the programme. The revived format was based upon the original design. It was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, filmed at dock10 studios and aired every evening between 6 May and 11 May 2018. On 14 September 2018, ITV confirmed that Millionaire would return for a new series in early 2019 consisting of 10 episodes. Clarkson will return as host.
The game show became one of the most significant shows in British popular culture, ranking 23rd in a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes. It was the highest quiz programme to appear on the list. Its success led to exports to many other countries, all of which follow the same general format, though with some versions including unique differences in gameplay and lifelines provided.
- 1 History
- 2 Format
- 3 Series overview
- 4 Text game (2004–2007)
- 5 Controversies
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The creation of the game show was led by David Briggs, assisted by Mike Whitehill and Steven Knight, who had helped him before with creating a number of promotional games for Chris Tarrant's morning show on Capital FM radio. The basic premise for the show was a twist on the conventional game-show genre of the time, with a focus towards the setup used in radio quizzes, in that the programme would have one contestant taking on the game and answering questions, but with the ability to pull out at any time, to have certain points in the quiz where, once passed, they could have a set prize given to them if they should give a wrong answer, and be provided with special forms of assistance during their game. During the design phase, the show was given the working title of "Cash Mountain", before Briggs decided upon using the name of the song written by Cole Porter for the 1956 film High Society, as the show's finalised title. After presenting their idea to ITV, the broadcaster gave the green-light for production to begin on a series.
The set designed for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was conceived by British production designer Andy Walmsley, who focused the design towards making contestants feel uncomfortable, creating an atmosphere of tension similar to movie thriller. The design was in stark contrast to the design of sets made for more typical game shows, which are designed to make contestants feel more at ease. Walmsley's design feature a central stage made primarily with Plexiglas, with a huge dish underneath covered in mirror paper, onto which two slightly-modified, 3 foot (0.91 m)-high Pietranera Arco All chairs were chosen for use by both the contestant and the host, each having an LG computer monitor directly facing each that would be used to display questions and other pertinent information. The rest of the set featured seating spaced out around the main stage in a circle, with breaks in them to allow movement of people on and off the set. The lighting rig used for the set was designed so as to allow only the lights to switch from illuminating the entire set, to focusing on the host and contestant on the main stage when a game was underway, but to include special lighting effects when the contestant reached higher cash prize amounts. His overall conception would eventually prove to be a success, becoming one of the most reproduced scenic designs in television history.
The music provided for the show was composed by father-and-son duo Keith and Matthew Strachan. The Strachans' composition for the game show helped with Briggs' tense game design, by providing the necessary drama and tension. Unlike other game show musical scores, the music provided for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was designed to be played throughout the entire episode of the show. The Strachans main theme for the game show was inspired from the "Mars" movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets. For the main game of the show, the pair designed the music to feature three variations, with the second and third compositions focused on emphasising the increased tension of the game - as a contestant made progress to higher cash amounts, the pitch of the music was increased by a semitone for each subsequent question. On Game Show Network's Gameshow Hall of Fame special, the narrator described the Strachan tracks as "mimicking the sound of a beating heart", and stated that as the contestant works their way up the money ladder, the music is "perfectly in tune with their ever-increasing pulse".
With the show created, ITV assigned Chris Tarrant as its host, and set its premiere to 4 September 1998. The programme was assigned a timeslot of one hour, to provide room for three commercial breaks, with episodes produced by production company Celador. Originally, the show was broadcast on successive evenings for around ten days, before the network modified its broadcast schedule to air it within a primetime slot on Saturday evenings, with occasional broadcasts on Tuesday evenings. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? proved a ratings hit, pulling in average viewing figures of up to 19 million during its broadcast in 1999, though such figures often occurred when the programme was allocated to a half-hour timeslot; by 2003, the viewing figures declined to an average of around 8 million viewers. Over the course of his time presenting the game show, Tarrant developed a number of notable catchphrases, including "Is that your final answer?", "But we don't want to give you that" and "All Vote Now!" with the latter often used to emphasise his wish to see contestants continue on and win more money and audience allowed to vote the answers in the lifeline used.
Since its launch, several individuals made claims over the origins of the format or elements of it, with each accusing Celador of breaching their copyrights. In three cases, the matters could not be proven by the claimants - in 2002, Mike Bull, a Southampton-based journalist, was given an out-of-court settlement when he claimed the authorship of lifelines was his work, though with a confidentiality clause attached; in 2003, Sydney resident John J. Leonard made claims in that the show's format was based on one he had made of a similar nature, but without the concept of lifelines; in 2004, Alan Melville was given an out-of-court settlement after he claimed that the opening phrase "Who wants to be a millionaire?" had been taken from document he sent to Granada Television, concerning his idea for a game show based on the lottery.
One of most significant claims Celador received against them was from John Bachini. In 2002, he started legal proceedings against the production company, ITV, and five individuals who had claimed they had created Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, stating that the idea from the show was taken from several elements he had created - a board game format he conceived in 1981; a two-page TV format, known as Millionaire, made in 1990; and the telephone mechanics for a TV concept he created in 1990, BT Lottery. In his claim, Bachini stated that he submitted documents for his TV concepts to Paul Smith, from a sister company of Celador's, in March 1995 and again in January 1996, and to Claudia Rosencrantz of ITV, also in January 1996, accusing both of using roughly 90% of the format for Millionaire in the pilot for the game show, including the use of twenty questions, lifelines and safety nets, although the lifelines were conceived under different names - Bachini claimed that he never coined the phrase "phone-a-friend" that Briggs designed in his format. In response to this claim, Celdaor made a counter-claim that the franchise originated from the basic format idea conceived by Briggs. The defendants in the claim took Bachini to a summary hearing, but lost their right to have his claim dismissed. Although Bachini won the right to go to trial, he was unable to after the hearing due to serious illness. Celador eventually settled the matter with him out-of-court.
In March 2006, Celador began procedures to sell the format of the show and all UK episodes, as part of their first step towards the sale of their formats divisions. The purchase of both assets was made by Dutch company 2waytraffic, which were then passed on to Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2008 when it acquired 2waytraffic. As the original series progress, variations of the format were created, and screened as special episodes, including celebrity editions, games featuring couples as contestants, and episodes themed around special events such as Mother's Day.
From April 2011, only celebrity contestants appeared on the show, in special live editions that coincided with holidays, events and other notable moments, such as the end of a school term. However, in 2012, three special episodes, entitled "The People Play", were broadcast for three consecutive nights between 9 and 11 July. They featured standard contestants, with viewers at home allowed to play along. The special was used three more times in 2013, once on 7 May, and twice more on 21 May, before the special's format was discontinued.
On 22 October 2013, Tarrant announced that after fifteen years of hosting the programme, he would be leaving Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which consequently led ITV to axe the programme once his contract was finished; no more specials would be filmed after this announcement, leaving only those made before it to be aired as the final episodes. After a few more celebrity editions of the game show, Tarrant hosted his final episode, a clip show entitled "Chris' Final Answer", aired on 11 February 2014.
In 2018, ITV revived the show for a new series, as part of its 20th anniversary commemorations of the programme. On 23 February, the broadcast put out a casting call for contestants who would appear on the game show. On 9 March, Jeremy Clarkson was confirmed as the new host of the show. On 13 April, the trailer for the revival premiered on ITV and confirmed that the show would return in May for a week long run, with it later confirmed on 25 April, that the show would begin airing from 5 May and finish 11 May. The revival received mostly positive reviews from critics and fans, leading to ITV renewing the show for another series with Clarkson returning as host. It will air for ten episodes in early 2019 .
Top prize winners
Over the course of the programme's broadcast history, it has had to date five winners who managed to successfully receive its top prize of £1 million. They include:
- Judith Cynthia Aline Keppel, a cash-strapped garden designer at the time. On 20 November 2000, she became the first contestant to win the top prize, and is to date the only woman to have received it in the British original. Following her success, Keppel later went onto become part of team of quiz experts for the BBC game show, Eggheads.
- David Edwards, a former physics teacher of Cheadle High School and Denstone College in Staffordshire. On 21 April 2001, he became the first man to win the top prize. Following his success, Edwards went on to compete in both series of Are You an Egghead?, in 2008 and 2009 respectively, but failed to win either series and secure a place as a panellist on Eggheads.
- Robert Kempe Brydges, an Oxford-educated banker from Holland Park, London. On 29 September 2001, he became the third person to win the show's top prize.
- Pat Gibson, a multiple world champion Irish quiz player. On 24 April 2004, he became the fourth person to win the top prize, and is the only person in the show's history to reach the final question with two lifelines still intact.
- Ingram Wilcox, a British quiz enthusiast. On 23 September 2006, he became the fifth person to win the top prize, and is to date, the most recent person to answer the show's final question.
Members of the public wishing to apply for the game show are provided with four options to choose form - calling/texting a premium-rate number; submitting an application via the show's ITV website, using a system of £1 "credits"; taking part in a casting audition, held at various locations around the UK. Once an application is made, production staff select an episode's contestants through a combination of random selection, and a potential contestant's ability to answer a set of test questions based on general knowledge.
Once a contestant has auditioned for a part on the programme and filming takes place, they undertake a preliminary round entitled "Fastest Finger First" - the group of contestants seeking a chance to take on the main game of the show, must answer a single question correctly, but do so faster than their opponents. Initially, the round required contestants to provide the correct answer to a question, but from the second series onwards, they are tasked with putting four answers in the correct order stated within the question (i.e. earliest to latest). The contestant who answers a question correctly and in the fastest time, moves on towards playing the main game; in the event that no-one answers the question correctly, a new question is given, while if two or more contestants give the correct answer in the same amount of time, they undergo a tiebreaker question to determine who takes on the main game. This round is primarily used to determine the new contestant for the main game, and can often be used more than once in an episode.
After completing the preliminary round, the contestant now begins taking on the main game, tackling a series of increasingly difficult question, which offering increasingly high sums of money, up to the top prize of £1 million. The questions they undertake are randomly chosen from list of generated questions based on general knowledge, with each consisting of four answers to choose from. While undertaking questions, the contestant is allowed to use a set of lifelines to provide them assistance with a question at any time, and two safety nets - if a contestant gets a question wrong, but had reached a designated cash value during their game, they left with that amount as their prize. Unlike other game shows, if a contestant is unsure about a question they are facing, they are allowed to leave the game at that point with the cash amount they had managed to win by that stage. While the initial questions are generally easy, the subsequent ones after it require the contestant to confirm that their answer/decision is final by the host, at which point it is locked in and cannot be reversed. As a rule, the host is not shown the correct answer, until a contestant has given their answer. If an episode is reaching the end of its allotted, an audio cue is triggered to highlight this; contestants still playing the main game are left to wait until filming for the next episode begins to continue, though this is not the case for special editions of the show, such as celebrity episodes.
Over the course of the show's history on British television, the format of the programme was altered in a number of aspects, mainly towards the setup of questions and the payout structure used in the game show, along with minor tweaks and changes in other aspects:
- Between 1998 and 2007, the format focused on contestants answering 15 questions, with two safety nets placed at £1,000 and £32,000 respectively, and the use of three standard lifelines. The payout structure during these years was focused as follows:
- £100 -> £200 -> £300 -> £500 -> £1,000 -> £2,000 -> £4,000 -> £8,000 -> £16,000 -> £32,000 -> £64,000 -> £125,000 -> £250,000 -> £500,000 -> £1,000,000
- Between 2007 and 2014, the number of questions was reduced to 12. This alteration led to the second safety net being assigned to a new cash value, £50,000, and the payout structure being changed as a result:
- £500 -> £1,000 -> £2,000 -> £5,000 -> £10,000 -> £20,000 -> £50,000 -> £75,000 -> £150,000 -> £250,000 -> £500,000 -> £1,000,000
- In 2010, the format was changed to include time limits on the questions, similar to the format from the US version, but with some differences. The time limit was 15 seconds for the first two questions, and 30 seconds for the next 5 questions - questions 8-12 had no time limit. The clock would start ticking down as soon as the answers appeared onscreen, and the contestant would have to give his/her's final answer within the limit. If they ran out of time it was treated as a incorrect answer. The clock would briefly pause however if any lifeline was used. It also added a fourth lifeline, Switch, which would be made available after passing question 7 and discontinued the preliminary round, meaning contestants were selected more traditionally by the production staff. 
- For the revived series in 2018, the format returned to that used between 1998–2007, including the payout structure, but with one noticeable difference. Apart from the use of a brand new lifeline, Ask The Host, the series included a new rule in which upon reaching £1,000, the contestant would be asked before each subsequent question if they would like to set the cash prize for that question as their second safety net, with it offered up to £500,000. There were also less contestants that played 'Fastest Finger First', with there now just being 6 instead of 10.
During a contestant's game, they may make use of a set of lifelines to provide assistance on a question. Throughout the course of the show's history, these lifelines involve the following:
- 50/50: Two random incorrect answers are eliminated, leaving the correct answer and one incorrect answer, thus granting the contestant a 50/50 chance of answering a question correctly.
- Phone a Friend: The contestant calls one of their friends, and has 30 seconds to read the question and the possible answers to them. The friend uses the leftover time to offer an answer. Since 2018, a member of the production team accompanies the friend to prevent cheating.
- Ask the Audience: Audience members use keypads to vote on what they believe to be the correct answer to the question. The percentage of each option selected by the audience is displayed to the contestant after this vote.
- Switch (2002–03, 2010–14): The computer replaces one question with another of the same monetary value. Any lifelines already used on the original question are not reinstated. From 2010 to 2014, this lifeline was earned after the contestant answered seven questions correctly.
- Ask the Host (2018-): The host offers an answer to the question. The host has no contact with outside sources and there is no time limit. On this question, the answer is revealed to the contestant and host simultaneously.
|Series||Start date||End date||Episodes|
|1||4 September 1998||25 December 1998||11|
|2||1 January 1999||13 January 1999||13|
|3||5 March 1999||16 March 1999||12|
|4||3 September 1999||14 September 1999||13|
|5||5 November 1999||26 December 1999||18|
|6||16 January 2000||22 January 2000||7|
|7||26 March 2000||1 May 2000||13|
|8||7 September 2000||6 January 2001||55|
|9||8 January 2001||26 April 2001||45|
|10||4 September 2001||29 December 2001||43|
|11||5 January 2002||9 April 2002||55|
|12||31 August 2002||28 December 2002||19|
|13||4 January 2003||31 May 2003||21|
|14||30 August 2003||27 December 2003||21|
|15||3 January 2004||5 June 2004||23|
|16||18 September 2004||25 December 2004||16|
|17||1 January 2005||11 June 2005||24|
|18||17 September 2005||31 December 2005||11|
|19||7 January 2006||8 July 2006||27|
|20||9 September 2006||6 January 2007||13|
|21||10 March 2007||28 July 2007||17|
|22||18 August 2007||30 October 2007||11|
|23||1 January 2008||3 June 2008||19|
|24||16 August 2008||31 January 2009||18|
|25||13 June 2009||20 December 2009||20|
|26||13 April 2010||8 June 2010||8|
|27||3 August 2010||23 December 2010||11|
|28||2 April 2011||19 December 2011||6|
|29||3 January 2012||20 December 2012||11|
|30||1 January 2013||11 February 2014||11|
|31||5 May 2018||11 May 2018||7|
Text game (2004–2007)
On 23 October 2004 the show included a new feature called the "Walkaway Text Game". The competition was offered to viewers at home to play the text game where they had to answer the question, if a contestant decided to walk home with the cash prize they have got, by choosing the letters 'A, B, C or D' within 30 seconds to a specific mobile number. The viewer who answered the question won £1,000 by having their entries selected randomly.
On 9 September 2006, there were some changes. The competition stayed the same but this time, they played it before some commercial breaks. A question to which the contestant had given their final answer, but the correct answer had not yet been revealed, was offered as a competition to viewers. Entry was via SMS text message at a cost of £1 per entry, and the competition ran through the commercial break, after which the answer was revealed and the game continued. One viewer who answered the question correctly won £1,000. The text game ended on 28 July 2007.
Incorrect answer to question accepted
In March 1999, the Daily Mirror published a report that accused the show of allowing a contestant, Tony Kennedy, to win a question by giving an incorrect answer. During Kennedy's game, when he had reached the £64,000 question, he was asked "Theoretically, what is the minimum number of strokes with which a tennis player can win a set?", and given four possible answers - twelve, twenty four, thirty six, and forty eight. Kennedy calculated that a player would need four shots to win a game, with six games in a set, giving an answer of twenty four, but the newspaper reported that this was incorrect, stating that a tennis player could win a game without playing a shot - if their opponent double-faulted on every serve, and the player aced each of their own serves, it would allow them to win with just 12 strokes. Based on their findings, the production staff acknowledged the mistake and apologised for it, but allowed Kennedy to keep the prize money he won by the end of his game.
Schedule rigging allegation
When Judith Keppel's victory as the first UK jackpot winner on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was announced by ITV on the day of that the corresponding episode was to be broadcast, several allegations were made that Celador had rigged the show to spoil the BBC's expected high ratings for the finale of One Foot in the Grave. Richard Wilson, the lead star on the sitcom, was quoted in particular for saying that the broadcaster had "planned" the win, adding "it seems a bit unfair to take the audience away from Victor's last moments on earth." David Renwick, writer of the sitcom, voiced annoyance that the episode would draw away interest from the sitcom's finale, believing that a leaked press release on ITV's announcement had been "naked opportunism", and it "would have been more honourable to let the show go out in the normal way", pointing out that it "killed off any element of tension or surprise in their own programme", but that "television is all about ratings". Richard Webber's account, in his 2006 book, cites "unnamed BBC sources" as those who "questioned the authenticity of Keppel's victory". The allegations in turn led to eleven viewers making complaints against the quiz show, of a similar nature, to the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
In response, ITV expressed distress to the allegations, claiming that it "undermined viewers' faith in the programme." Leslie Hill, the chairman of ITV, wrote to Sir Christopher Bland, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the BBC, to complain about the issue. The corporation apologised, saying that any suggestion of 'rigging' "did not represent the official view of the BBC", while the ITC's investigation cleared the programme of any wrongdoing.
On 11 February 2006, celebrity couple Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and his wife Jackie took on the game show to raise money for their chosen charity - The Shooting Star Children's Hospice. Having reached the final question of the quiz, they were asked "Translated from the Latin, what is the motto of the United States?", to which the Bowens answered with "In God, We Trust", only to learn that the question's correct answer was "One Out of Many" - the English translation for the Latin E pluribus unum. However, Celador later admitted that the question had been ambiguous and not fair to the pair - although E pluribus unum is considered the de facto motto of the United States, it was never legally declared as such; In God, We Trust is the official motto of the country since 1956, although it is not translated from any form of Latin. Following this revelation, the production company invited the Bowens back to tackle a new question, with their original winnings reinstated; the couple chose not to risk the new question, and left with £500,000 for their charity.
Ingram cheating scandal
In September 2001, British Army Major Charles Ingram became a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, joined by his wife Diana, and a close friend and college lecturer, Tecwen Whittock. After the first day of filming, the group devised a scheme that would allow Ingram to win the £1 million cash prize when he returned for the second day of recording, on 10 September - for each question he faced, the correct answer would be signalled to Ingram by a cough made by Whittock; Ingram would differentiate the way he received this to avoid making the scheme too obvious, such as reading aloud all four answers, or dismissing an answer and then choosing it again later. Although the scheme proved successful, by the time he had reached the final questions, production staff off-stage had become suspicious over the amount of background noise being made by Whittock's coughing, while noting that Ingram seemed to show no specialist knowledge of any subjects he faced with each question.
After the second day of recording ended, the production staff ordered an immediate investigation on the grounds that cheating had occurred, suspending the broadcast of both episodes that had been filmed. Ingram was subsequently informed that he was being investigated for cheating and would not receive his winnings. While reviewing the recording, production staff began to see a pattern between Whittock's coughing, and Ingram's unusual behaviour when he answered questions; at one point, they noticed Ingram gave an answer when Diana had coughed after he read it aloud. By this point, Celador was convinced that cheating had occurred, and the matter was handed over to police. Both the Ingrams and Whittock were charged with "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception", and taken to Southwark Crown Court in 2003.
During the four-week long trial, the Prosecution provided evidence towards the charges, which included a recording of Ingram's second day on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, pager telephone records for a previous scheme the group intended to use, before deeming it too complicated - a system of four pagers intended to be hidden on Ingram's body, in which a pager's vibrations signalled the correct answer - and testimony from one of the production staff and a "Fastest Finger" contestant attending the recording, Larry Whitehurst. Although the Defence provided evidence claiming Whittock's coughing was a result of dust allergies and a hay fever he was suffering from, and Whittock himself testified against the accusations, the Prosecution refuted these claims with their evidence, including footage that showed Whittock stopped coughing when he became a contestant after Ingram. On 7 April 2003, the group were found guilty, with all three given suspended prison sentences and fines, with the Ingrams later ordered to pay legal costs within two months of the trial's conclusion. On 24 July 2003, the British Army ordered Charles Ingram to resign his commission as a Major, in the wake of the trial.
In the aftermath of the trial, the scandal became the subject of a documentary entitled Millionaire: A Major Fraud, presented by Martin Bashir and broadcast on 21 April 2003, with a follow-up two weeks later entitled Millionaire: The Final Answer. The documentary featured excerpts from the recording that had been enhanced for the Ingrams' trial, footage of the actions made by Ingram's wife in the audience, and interviews with production staff and some of the contestants who had been present during the recording. None of the defendants in the case took part, with Ingram later describing Major Fraud and a subsequent programme of the matter, shown on ITV2, as "one of the greatest TV editing con tricks in history". Chess grandmaster James Plaskett later wrote an essay arguing in favour of the group's innocence; journalists Bob Woffinden, and Jon Ronson, each wrote a piece influenced by this essay, with Woffinden collaborating with Plaskett on a book entitled Bad Show: The Quiz, The Cough, The Millionaire Major, published in 2015, arguing that Ingram's appearance on the show coinciding with Whittock's was "chance". A play based upon the events of the scandal was written by James Graham, entitled Quiz, and was performed from 3 November 2017 to 9 December 2017, before being performed in the West End from 31 March 2018 to 16 June 2018.
The Phone-a-Friend lifeline provided multiple instances of controversy during the show's run. A 2002 edition of the Daily Mail reported that many contestants had selected strangers who were "contacts among the quizzing fraternity" to act as their Phone-a-Friends. Specifically, game show champion Daphne Fowler was approached by a man she had not previously met and asked if she would be his lifeline in exchange for £200. Fowler refused, adding: "I thought a fair price would be a quarter of whatever the man won, so if I helped him get from £32,000 to £64,000 I would expect to get £16,000." The man was later revealed by ITV sources not to have made it onto the programme.
In March 2007 various UK newspapers reported that an organised syndicate had been getting quiz enthusiasts onto the show in return for a percentage of their winnings. The person behind the syndicate was Keith Burgess from Northern Ireland. Burgess admitted to helping around 200 contestants to appear on the show since 1999; he estimates those contestants to have won around £5,000,000. The show producers are believed to have been aware of this operation, with Burgess stating: "The show knows about me and these types of syndicates, but they cover it up to keep the show going." An earlier version of a Phone a Friend syndicate was reported in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo during 2003. Paul Smith, the Managing Director of Celador Productions, stated: "We are aware of Paddy Spooner and what people similar to him are doing, and we have made a priority of changing our question procedure. We are confident we have now made it impossible for anyone to manipulate the system." Since then, the options of people that can be called have a picture of themselves shown on-air.
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