UK: Controversy Over Call TV Quiz Shows

Last Updated: 6 February 2007
Article by Susan Barty, Bill Carr and Lucy Kilshaw

The well publicised controversy surrounding Call TV Quiz shows, where participants pay to enter, rarely connect to the studio and run up large telephone bills in the process, has led to increasing public concern and to the House of Commons and ICSTIS producing recommendations as to how such shows should be regulated.

The House of Commons recommendations include: alerting the caller to the number and cost of the calls they have made, ensuring that operators highlight when puzzles involve cryptic elements, requesting the Gambling Commission to consider how such shows should be classified under the Gambling Act 2005, and urging BT to find a solution to stop the practice of charging callers even where they are not entered into the competition. ICSTIS, the industry-funded regulatory body covering premium rate charges, has also published a review and consultation which proposes new regulation to make viewers aware of the odds of connecting with the studio and to give cumulative call cost warnings after each £10 spent.

To view the article in full, please see below:

Full Article

House of Commons Report

The House of Commons ("HOC") report was published on 25 January 2007 following an investigation last autumn. It makes several recommendations to provide greater clarity on the regulation of Call TV Quiz shows and to improve transparency of game mechanisms for viewers. Typically, the viewer watches a live broadcast programme, sends a text message or makes a premium rate telephone call in order to take part and then fails to connect with the studio. The broadcaster keeps a proportion of the call revenue, which funds the programme. The HOC considered that the shows have the "look and feel" of gambling, but are not regulated as such, and was highly critical of a number of underhand and misleading practices.

The main considerations and recommendations of the report are as follows:

  1. The Gambling Commission, OFCOM and ICSTIS are all involved in regulating the area but the extent of their individual roles is unclear. The HOC recommends that, while each regulator has expertise in a distinct area, OFCOM should take the lead so that there is one clearly identifiable body to whom all complaints can be addressed.
  2. The HOC considers that the shows should be treated as gaming under the new Gambling Act on the basis that some participants do not choose a free entry route (where there is one). They ask the Gambling Commission to consider the appropriate categorisation as a matter of urgency. (In fact the Gambling Commission has previously expressed the view that such shows are in the nature of illegal lotteries.)
  3. The HOC encourages the use of alerting systems which keep callers informed as to how many calls they make and/or how much they have spent; they suggested that this should become obligatory. Further, they recommend that broadcasters display the GamCare telephone number at regular intervals and request that ICSTIS make changes to its rules to ensure that all viewers understand the costs of participation.
  4. Based on concerns about the ambiguity and obscurity of some questions and answers, they recommend that OFCOM requires broadcasters to inform viewers that puzzle solutions may not be as simple as they seem and that there may be a cryptic element. They add that OFCOM should consider making it obligatory to verify games and lodge solutions with independent third parties. A further recommendation is that OFCOM should consider whether operators not only have to reveal the solutions but also how such solutions are reached.
  5. The HOC confirm that blocking calls from entry (for example, as a result of a caller exceeding a maximum number of calls) and deliberately misleading callers about call volume could be fraudulent and amount to a criminal offence. They further ask BT to find a solution to stop the technical problem of charging a caller even when they are not entered into the competition. In the meantime callers must be refunded where this occurs.
  6. Generally, players are not told that the chances of connecting with the studio are very slim. Although there are difficulties in calculating odds accurately for any given time, the HOC suggests that this is not an insurmountable problem and should be considered based on historical information. Following this, ICSTIS has put forward some suggestions on this area in its report (see below).

For the full HOC report click here.

ICSTIS Consultation

The ICSTIS review and consultation issued on 29 January 2007 sets out suggested modifications to the existing "Statement of Expectations" concerning this sector. The main proposals are: spoken pricing announcements at intervals of no more than 10 minutes (previously it was between 5 and 15 minutes); cumulative call warnings at no more than each £10 spent by a caller each day to minimise the risk of "bill shock"; transparency as to the actual chances of success in any one call being put through to the studio (the suggested calculations are by reference to recent blocks of programming); and presenter scripts which make it clear that most participants will not get through. The closing date for comment is 12 March 2007. For the full ICSTIS document click here.

Further Consultations

OFCOM’s pre-consultation document into "Participation TV" issued on 15 December 2006, considers these same types of quiz shows, as well as other shows which depend wholly or mainly on audience participation. However, its focus is whether such shows, containing repeated messages to viewers to call (or text) in, should be classed as advertising, editorial or as a hybrid of both. Clearly, if deemed to be advertising, they would have to comply with advertising rules. For the full OFCOM document click here.

As well as the newly problematic area of Call TV Quiz shows, there continues to be uncertainty surrounding the advertising of gambling under the new Gambling Act, due to come into force in September 2007. A consultation published by the Gambling Commission on 23 January 2007 poses important questions, including whether gambling advertisements should contain obligatory warnings and/or educational messages and whether an advertiser’s licensing status should be stated. The paper also asks for views on how such requirements would best be enforced: by statutory regulation, licensing conditions or on a voluntary basis. The closing date for responses is 6 March 2007. For full details click here. The responses will be considered in connection with amendments to the CAP and BCAP Codes on Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, again to come into force by September 2007.

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 05/02/2007.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.