Quiz channels questioned

Quiz channels such as ITV Play and Quiz Call, should be regulated under the new Gambling Act, according to a Sky executive.

Nick Rust, managing director of SkyBet, told the Commons select committee on culture, media and sport that the channels needed to be treated the same way as other forms of gambling.

"These channels are the same as gambling but are not regulated as such and need to be,” he said.

MP’s are unconvinced about the channels and are quizzing TV bosses over claims that they are misleading viewers. This led to an inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, where evidence was heard from TV executives, producers and representatives of Ofcom and Citizens Advice Bureau.

The popularity of these channels has soared recently, with players tempted by high cash prizes. ITV hope to earn £20 million from premium rate phone calls from ITV Play in its first year.

However, according to the inquiry, the chances of getting through at peak times can sometimes be as high as 5,000-1, with allegations that some channels are manipulating call numbers. One channel, Big Game TV, is currently under investigation by police for alleged fraud.

Martin Le Jeure, head of public affairs for Sky, responded to criticism from MP’s that Sky are simply trying to protect the interests of their own gambling channels behind the need to protect consumers. Le Jeure pointed out the customer protection methods that Sky has in place, including spending limits, that other quiz channels lack.

According to Shari Vahl, from the BBC 4 consumer programme, viewers are not being given enough information.

“I certainly think there needs to be transparency and openness. If you do have a chance of getting through then it would be nice to know what that is," she said.

This viewpoint is echoed by MP Nigel Evans, who also claimed that viewers are enticed by easy questions.

“The reason you do not put the odds of people getting through on the screen is that people would not phone.”

George Kidd, director at the premium-rate phone-line watchdog ICSTIS, has told Culture, Media and Sport Committee that self-regulation and not a change of law is required, stating that "non-statutory solutions will work best in this space."
He also added that although there are "inherent risks in live programming", he did not believe that most TV channels were acting fraudulently.

Sky have argued that as the games are not skill-based, they should therefore be treated the same as lotteries and regulated the same way. However, up till now, these channels have avoided being classified as a lottery because players are always given to opportunity to play for free online

But this may change. The Gambling Commission would like to treat them as lotteries and not as competitions, requiring quiz channels to apply for licences and also to give 20 percent of profits to charity.

Editor, Jackpot.co.uk - 2006-11-29 12:05:36

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