TV phone-in watchdogs bring in tougher rules

Regulators Ofcom and PhonepayPlus have unveiled measures to strengthen viewer and consumer protection in participation TV programmes. The new rules follow the industry-wide scandal that erupted 12 months ago over mistakes and cover-ups in TV quizzes and phone-ins.

Ofcom has issued new mandatory licence conditions to broadcasters, stating that where they invite viewers to participate in programmes they are directly responsibly for handling viewer communications, whether by phone, post or e-mail.

It also states that television broadcasters must obtain independent third-party verification of all systems used in premium rate services (PRS) voting and competitions. The regulator says it will carry out unannounced spot-checks to ensure compliance.

The new measures follow a damning Ofcom report into the “systematic failure” by broadcasters using PRS in television programmes ( July 18, 2007).

PhonepayPlus, the PRS industry regulator formerly known as ICSTIS, has further stipulated that service providers looking to provide PRS services to broadcasters must seek permission. The “prior permissions” regime is intended to assure broadcasters that their service partners’ systems are effective and compliant.

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