UK Media Watchdog Raps Phone-in Competition Failures

20 July 2007

LONDON: UK communications regulator Ofcom and trustees of the BBC are to meet urgently following damning revelations of lapses in the corporation's conduct of phone-in television competitions.

Ofcom ceo Ed Richards believes the BBC must act quickly to rebuild trust after the broadcaster suspended all phone-ins and interactive competitions following an internal probe.

The investigation found that a number of programmes, including charity telethon shows Comic Relief and Sport Relief, had breached the corporation's editorial standards.

The announcement comes in the wake of publication by Ofcom of a report into premium rate phone services (PRS) that found "systemic failures" by all major UK broadcasters.

It also said revenue generation was a major driver in the growth of PRS with some broadcasters apparently in denial about their responsibilities.

Moreover, an apparent lack of transparency between telcos, producers and broadcasters resulted in a lack of clarity about responsibilities.

Broadcasters were also concerned about a lack of clarity between the various regulators.

The report's author, former BBC executive Richard Ayres, recommends broadcasters' licences should be changed to include greater consumer protection and independent third party auditing. He also urges more transparent pricing and fairness in competitions.

He said: "If broadcasters want audiences to go on spending millions calling-in, they need to show they take consumer protection as seriously as programme content."

Said Richards: "Ofcom takes these issues extremely seriously and will continue to take action against broadcasters found to break the rules in this area."

Data sourced from and Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff