Jowell rejects MPs' TV quiz lottery call

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell has rejected a call by MPs to classify TV quiz channels and programmes as lotteries, a move that would force broadcasters to hand over 20% of premium rate quiz line profits to charity. In January the Commons culture committee called on Jowell to get tough on rogue broadcasters, and called for a single regulator to police the premium rate sector.

In a reply to the committee, Jowell's department made clear that ministers were "extremely concerned" over recent premium rate scandals, and said regulators Ofcom and ICSTIS would be tightening consumer safeguards. While the reply agreed with MPs that some TV quizzes shared "many of the characteristics of gambling" there was a "qualitative difference" between games that required an element of skill to work out the answer and those that were based on chance. The culture department had therefore concluded that "call TV quiz shows constitute competitions and not gaming".

The reply went on: "The Government remains extremely concerned about recent reports that have highlighted continued failures in the operation of premium rate services across a range of interactive programmes. Failures of this kind risk damaging the public's trust and confidence in both broadcasters and premium rate services and raise concerns about consumer protection.

"The Government therefore expects the highest levels of probity in the operation of premium rate services and has looked to the regulators, Ofcom and ICSTIS to take swift action. In response, Ofcom and ICSTIS, following extensive review and investigation, will be announcing significantly strengthened regulation of these services imminently."

Meanwhile Ofcom warned broadcasters the regulator would consider statutory sanctions for broadcasters breaching its standards code after upholding complaints against two TV quiz programmes.

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