U.K. b'casters flunk quiz probe


U.K. media regulator Ofcom has found broadcasters here guilty of "systemic failures" in their premium phone quiz services, claiming that they have been "in denial" about the extent of wrongdoing. Simultaneously, the BBC suspended all phone-in competitions across the pubcaster's television, radio and interactive platforms (HR 7/19).

Announcing the results of the first phase of its inquiry into the matter, Ofcom CEO Ed Richards warned broadcasters that he takes the issue "extremely seriously" and that they face continued financial penalties if found guilty of premium-line phone failures.

"To restore trust with viewers, broadcasters need to deliver and demonstrate strong consumer protection as well as quality programming," Richards said. "Ofcom's consultation will identify the best way to make this happen."

The scandal was triggered this year when it emerged that viewers of Channel 4's daytime quiz show "You Say We Pay" were being duped and asked to pay £1 ($2) per call to enter a competition that had already closed.

Soon after, other broadcasters admitted to irregularities. So far, the regulator has imposed fines on Five, Channel 4 and the BBC and is still working through the backlog of cases. But Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, moved to cease all of its phone-in games after at least six more incidents of malpractice came to light Wednesday. The pubcaster admitted faking competition winners on such high-profile, BBC1 charity-event shows as "Comic Relief," "Sport Relief" and "Children in Need."