Ofcom moots ‘health’ warning plans for quiz channels

Ofcom launches a consultation this week into the need to increase the protection of viewers taking part in phone-ins and quizzes. The plans include a proposal to put “health” warnings on adult quiz channels.

The consultation follows a raft of complaints about premium rate telephone services (PRS) and last week’s publication of an Ofcom inquiry. The inquiry led by Richard Ayre, a non-executive member of the Ofcom Content Board, found “systematic failures” by broadcasters.

It also follows the BBC’s suspension of all phone-ins and interactive competitions across TV and radio after a corporation-wide search uncovered a number of “serious breaches” in shows including charity telethons Comic Relief and Children in Need.

The Ayre inquiry recommended that broadcasters should be held directly accountable for their use of PRS and Ofcom has set out proposals to implement the recommendations.

They include new licence obligations for television and radio broadcasters that will hold broadcasters directly responsible for consumer protection and PRS compliance and a requirement for broadcasters to ensure independent third party verification of PRS activity.

Ofcom is also consulting on the regulation of dedicated participation TV services, such as quiz, psychic and adult chat services, which rely heavily on viewer interaction via premium rate phone-ins. These services are regulated by Ofcom as editorial content.

It is seeking views on three options for tighter regulation of these services: licensed as editorial but subject to tighter Broadcasting Code rules; licensed as editorial but required to carry labelling to ensure that viewers understand the commercial nature of content or licensed as advertising and regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The closing date for responses is October 17.

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