BSkyB's Murdoch sounds off on call-ins

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LONDON -- British Sky Broadcasting CEO James Murdoch on Tuesday launched a broadside at the main broadcasters here, describing the premium-phone-line business as "grubby" and "pretty sleazy."

In an interview with the Royal Television Society magazine, Murdoch said such programs take advantage of viewers and that Sky has made the deliberate decision not to get involved.

"We took the view that they (premium-rate quizzes) were taking advantage of people and that our customers deserved better than that," he told the Royal Television Society's magazine, "Television."

All the terrestrial broadcasters have emerged red-faced from a slew of call-TV scandals that saw voters and viewers urged to pay to enter quizzes and competitions that turned out to be fixed. The issue is being investigated by media regulator Ofcom.

"Premium-rate quiz stuff always felt grubby, trying to get an extra nickel out of everyone. We didn't feel comfortable with it," Murdoch said.

"A customer is not a pile of money to go and scrape off as much as you can," he added. "A customer is someone who has choice and free will and ultimately can be a very loyal partner. ... Premium-rate quiz shows undermine that relationship because basically it is just taking advantage, and it's pretty sleazy."

Murdoch will chair the three-day RTS biennial conference that kicks off Sept. 13. Keynote speakers include News Corp. COO Peter Chernin and Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello.
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