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Ofcom launches consultation into quiz and participation shows

LONDON - Media regulator Ofcom will scrutinise commercial and digital television's growing use of premium-rate phone lines in the New Year with a view to tightening the regulation around quiz and participation channels.

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The regulator said that it was launching a consultation into the trend for channels whose broadcast content consists mainly of "quiz, psychic and adult chat services".

Ofcom said that the consultation would address concerns regarding "a changing media environment where the boundaries between programming and advertising are becoming increasingly blurred as broadcasters seek new revenue streams", which had led to a proliferation in the number of participation channels.

The consultation will take into account the ongoing review from premium-rate regulator Icstis, which is seeking to assess whether pricing and the element of chance involved in the competitions on the channels are "sufficiently transparent to viewers".

Icstis lauched a review in October into the practices of quiz shows on digital TV, such as ITV Play, that charge their audience through premium-rate phone lines, whether or not they get through to the show.

The regulator will also seek views on the broader question of how the content of these services should be regulated, in a full industry and public consultation in the New Year.

It will ask whether these services should be considered as editorial, and therefore subject to the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, or advertising, which is subject to the Advertising Code enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The consulation will also ask for views on whether there may be a more appropriate alternative way to regulate these services.

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