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Premium rate TV quizzes subject to new, strict rules

Real-time display and £10 cap to restore viewer trust

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Callers to television programmes which use premium rate phone lines must now be told how many others are calling the programme and must be told when their charges reach £10 in a single day.

A new set of rules came into effect this week governing how the expensive television quiz shows can operate. Premium rate phone regulator ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services) has changed its Code of Practice to allay recent fears that viewers are being exploited.

ICSTIS said it wanted viewers to have a better idea of their chances of getting on air, and therefore winning prizes, so has ordered companies to have a permanent on screen display of how many people have called the service in the last 10 minutes.

"The chances of acceptance or rejection of an attempt by a viewer to get beyond the first stage must be shown on-screen in near real-time," said the new rules. "This will be achieved as a minimum by a prominent permanently visible stand-alone display (whether static, crawling, or scrolling) showing the total number of entries (paid and free) to the service in the preceding 15 minute period. This must be updated at no more than 10 minute intervals."

Operators of quiz call shows must also now include voice-overs in their programming reading out the price of calls at 10 minute intervals. Operators must also make sure that callers are warned when they spend £10 in a single day on the services, even if that is over the course of a number of calls.

"We believe these new measures, which are designed to address the concerns that have been raised recently, will go a long way to restoring consumer trust in this form of TV quiz," said ICSTIS chief executive George Kidd. "We have worked closely with Ofcom, broadcasters, programme makers and telephone companies, who have all been supportive in making sure that the changes could be introduced as soon as possible."

The changes form part of ICSTIS's new Statement of Expectation for Call TV Quiz Services. ICSTIS said the changes reflected concerns expressed in January by MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

Premium rate television quizzes have been mired in controversy in recent weeks surrounding quizzes in a number of high profile mainstream television programmes. Competitions have been audited and some operators fired by stations or production companies for allowing presenters to advertise the quiz when those to go on air and win prizes had already been chosen. Others have miscounted or mislaid votes.

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