Memorandum submitted by Brian Butterworth,
UK Free TV
I have written to both Ofcom and the Gambling
Commission because I feel that these TV channels are in breach
of the current laws, and certainly against the principles that
Parliament has laid down for the various types of gaming that
are allowed in this country. I am writing to you because I feel
that they have provided no useful feedback.
Let me declare my interests. Firstly, I run
a website called UK Free TV, which provides an independent source
of information about non-subscription television in the UK which
has over 130,000 visitors each month and and over monthly 250,000
page impressions http://www.ukfree.tv
Secondly, I was involved with the creation of
the first gaming TV channels in the UK, the TV-bingo Avago, just
over five years ago, and for this reason I feel that I know this
I wrote to Ofcom to complain on 11 September
2006. I reproduce the letter here to give an overview of the points
that I hope you will be investigating:
I believe that these programs, which are broadcast
on the Freeview digital television service, are not legal:
QuizCall (24 hour, also on five).
ftn: "Quiz Night Live"
(10 pm until 1 am).
The Music Factory: "Pop the
Q" (midnight until 3 am).
ITV-1: ITV Play (midnight-4 am).
ITV-2 ITV Play (1 am-4 am).
Five Life/US:The Great British Quiz
Firstly, these television channels present themselves
as "games of skill", whereas they are actually "games
of chance". This can easily be demonstrated by the fact that
for ITV Play to make the profits they have stated in public requires
130 people to be "trying to get though to the studio"
at any one time, for 24 hours a day.
If I remember my A-level statistics course correctly,
if you have a game of skill that requires a game of chance to
enter, then the overall outcome is a game of chance. I thought
games of chance (lotteries) were illegal outside The National
Secondly, the chances of getting though to try
to suggest an answer is not fixed odds, but varying odds dependent
on the size of the prize and the number of other callers. Nowhere
on screen is any attempt made to explain the odds.
Thirdly, two of the channels run 24 hours a
day, and therefore are accessible to those under 16 who are not
allowed by law to gamble. There is never an on-screen message
to point this out, and the brands used by ITV Play are popular
with Children (such as Coronation Street.
As you do not need to register, there is no
protection for those who are disqualified from playing. I have
seen "competitions" that require the caller to name
children's television or cartoon characters, which can only be
aimed at children.
Is there not a duty on the promoter of a competition
to ensure that anyone playing is qualified to do so? Is it legal
to aim any lottery/competition at children? Should the set and
setting for the quiz channel not be aimed at adults, rather than
look like Children's television channels?
Fourthly, why is the language used so misleading?
For example, on the ITV Play channel:
"Next caller Triple Money" does not
mean 2the next person who calls gets triple money" but "the
next person WHO SURVIVES THE LOTTERY will get triple money".
The cost of the call is not on-screen for the same time as the
number that can be called and not at the same point size.
Fifthly, should access to these channels be
limited to those who can prove that they are over 15? For example,
Sky Digital has a system to limit viewing of movies by use of
a PIN number during daytime hours. Why should these channels,
if they are legal at all, be allowed to broadcast during daytime
hours without similar protection?
It is my opinion that these channels are just
like letting children into a bookmakers or casino, which is illegal.
The Gambling Commission told me that "Games
of chance outside the National Lottery are legal if run for charitable,
cultural or sporting purposes, but is illegal for them to be run
for private or commercial gain. This is why such schemes have
to be run as competitions."
It appears to me that because it is random if
you "get though to the studio" before you can guess
the answer to the question, this is a GAME OF CHANCE.
(Normal TV quizzes pool the answers to a question
FIRST and then select from a correct answer, rather than the lottery
for the prize coming first).
I wrote to the Gambling Commission to ask their
advise, and here is their reply:
LETTER FROM THE GAMBLING COMMISSION TO BRIAN
Programmes and television channels such as the
ones you have referred to are classed as games of skill and are
therefore legal as they are competitions rather than lotteries.
Games of chance outside the National Lottery are legal if run
for charitable, cultural or sporting purposes, but is illegal
for them to be run for private or commercial gain. This is why
such schemes have to be run as competitions.
There is currently no legal definition of skill
and this along with the fact that such competitions involve an
element of chance are things that the Gambling Act 2005, which
will be fully implemented in September 2007 will be addressing.
I suggest that you have a look at the consultation papers that
we have on this subject and you can make any comments that you
have on this subject to us at any time until 31 October 2006,
the address to send them to is contained in the consultation paper.
The relevant documents can be found on our website (the address
is shown below) and by clicking on the Consultation section, they
are on the right hand side of the page.
Competitions are not regulated by any specific
body, it is up to the people who are running them to ensure that
they are legal. There is also no age limit on competitions unless
the prizes that are on offer are age restricted. You should address
your concerns to the Office of Communications (Ofcom) as they
are responsible for regulating the UK communications industries.
The address of their website is www.ofcom.org.uk