Feeds

Ofcom hands Channel 5 biggest-ever fine

Two Five shows discontinued

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Five has been hit with a £300,000 fine by regulator Ofcom in what is the biggest payout by a public service broadcaster to the regulator. It was found to have faked winners in live call-in competitions.

In shows produced by Cheetah, a subsidiary of Big Brother producer Endemol, production staff posed as winners on numerous occasions, a move that the regulator said "substantially misled" viewers and competition entrants.

"What started as a single attempt – unacceptable in itself – to resolve production difficulties in finding a winner had become an established procedure," said Ofcom's ruling. "The formalised procedure that had been adopted by the programme was totally unacceptable and showed a blatant disregard for not only the audience of the show, but also those participating and spending money by entering some competitions that were not being run fairly.

"The editorial needs of the programme overrode the consideration of fairness to those participating in the competitions and to the audience overall," it said.

Daytime shows Brainteaser and its spin-off Memory Bank had faked winners on a number of occasions, Ofcom's investigation found. When viewers with the correct answers could not be found to go live on air, production crew members pretended to win, it found.

This happened five times in 2007 alone, Ofcom found, and had been going on since 2003. The activity was carried out by Cheetah production staff despite Five's guidelines on fairness.

"The committee was in no doubt that Five had acted in good faith at all times and had not intended its service to deceive the audience. It clearly had extensive compliance procedures in place through which it sought to ensure compliance and had regularly monitored and reviewed the procedures for conducting the competitions," said the ruling.

"The committee noted that Endemol was a large and experienced production company and understood Five's reasons for believing it was well equipped to produce such a programme. However, on the evidence available to it, the Committee considered that this confidence had been misplaced and that Endemol appeared to have failed to take the necessary steps to deliver a compliant programme," said Ofcom.

The ruling said that the procedures of both Endemol and Five seemed to be geared more towards the smooth running of the programme than towards treating its audience and competition entrants fairly.

Endemol's Cheetah acknowledged in a statement that it had made errors. "While fundamental errors of judgment were made on these few occasions, Ofcom's report clearly demonstrates that these came down to an honest but misguided attempt to keep a live show running," it said.

Five said that it would not appeal the fine and would pay it itself. "Five has always accepted that breaches occurred with regard to Brainteaser," said chief executive Jane Lighting. "However, we are disappointed with the very high level of the financial penalty imposed, especially as we believe Five took all reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure the programme complied with the Ofcom Code."

Five must pay the £300,000 fine and must broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings twice - once at the time of day when Brainteaser was shown and once at prime time. Both the affected programmes have been discontinued.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.