Regulatory Roundup - Broadcast

OFCOM clamps down on participation TV

Ofcom has today announced new measures to protect viewers against being misled or duped in relation to ‘interactive’ or ‘participation’ programmes. The move comes in the wake of the series of phone-in and vote rigging scandals that spread across the TV spectrum from daytime lifestyle shows, to the bastion of childrens broadcasting, Blue Peter through to prime time evening favourties such as Ant’n’Dec.

The new measures give Ofcom increased powers to impose new license conditions, obtain third party verification and what broadcasters will no doubt see as the biggest threat, the power to undertake spot checks on programmes.

In addition, where all those seeking to provide premium rate phone services (PRS) to broadcasters will need to satisfy PhonepayPlus – which regulates PRS – that they meet the required standard.

Ofcom hopes that the tougher measures it has, combined with more power to scrutinise providers at the point of entry to the market will produce the much needed improvement to regulation and public perception of a clampdown on the free-for-all audience duping and money making machine that seemed to surround phone ins.

The new licence conditions provide:
• Where television broadcasters invite viewers to participate in programmes, they are directly responsible for the handling of all communications - whether by phone, email or post - from viewers.
• Television broadcasters must obtain independent third-party verification of all systems used in PRS voting and competitions . Ofcom will undertake an initial 12 to 18 month programme of unannounced spot-checks to ensure broadcasters are complying with this requirement.
Commenting on the introduction of the new measures Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said “Viewers must be confident that they will be treated fairly and consistently when interacting with television programmes. These measures will ensure that broadcasters are directly accountable and give greater protection for all.”

Full details from OFCOM

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