Ofcom Gets Tough Over 'Participation' TV

25 July 2007

LONDON: UK communications regulator Ofcom on Tuesday responded swiftly to several key recommendations in last week's report by former BBC ethics enforcer Richard Ayre on Britain's TV and radio phone-in scams.

The watchdog has published proposals to strengthen consumer protection against 'participation television' - shows that invite viewers to interact with content via premium rate telephone services (PRS).

The report's main recommendations, on which consultation is now in process, are . . .

  • The imposition of new licence obligations on TV and radio broadcasters, that hold them directly responsible for consumer protection and PRS compliance. This will ensure fair and consistent treatment for all public participants in shows that solicit competition entries or votes in talent shows.

  • A requirement for broadcasters to ensure independent third party verification of PRS activity. This will help assist early detection of compliance issues.
Ofcom is also consulting on the regulation of dedicated participation TV services - typically quiz, psychic and adult chat services - which rely heavily on interaction with viewers by means of PRS. The closing date for responses is 17 October 2007.

The watchdog also invites views on three options for tighter regulation of dedicated participation TV channels and services:
  1. Licensed as editorial, but subject to tighter rules under the Broadcasting Code;

  2. Licensed as editorial, but required to carry labelling to ensure viewers understand the commercial nature of the content;

  3. Licensed as advertising and regulated under the Advertising Standards Code enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority.
For further information on the consultation click here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff