30/05/2008

Channels Lead TV Phone-in Crackdown

TV phone-ins should be 'safer' for viewers to use from now on.

Channel 4 and Channel Five have announced their collaboration on a programme-makers' 'handbook' they said is designed to stamp out the TV deception incidents such as those that dogged the industry over the last year.

It was a necessary move though as, between them, the two broadcasters have been fined almost £1.8m in the past year for misleading viewers in premium-rate phone-ins.

Channel 4 and Five will shortly unveil what they are calling the result of their collaboration, the Independent Producer Handbook.

The guide is aimed at fostering 'best editorial practice' among independent producers making shows for the two broadcasters.

The issue is complex though as Channel 4 and Five are the only commercial public service broadcasters to commission all their original programming from the independent production sector.

They said it would be useful for the industry if production staff had one book to help them navigate editorial, compliance and ethical dilemmas.

The guide is the result of "two years of joint work and the most comprehensive guide either broadcaster has ever attempted", they said.

Kevin Lygo, the Channel 4 Director of TV and Content, said: "The handbook will be an essential tool for both Channel 4's programme-makers and commissioners.

"We hope it will promote best practice and a clearer understanding of the parameters of the Ofcom broadcasting code and the law to better enable the making and broadcast of creative and bold programmes."

Meanwhile, Ben Gale, the Channel Five director of programmes, added: "The Independent Producer Handbook has been designed to provide programme-makers with clear, practical legal and regulatory guidance.

"We hope it will prove to be a useful aid for everyone involved in the production process."

The guide, which will be published online early next month, will provide advice for programme-makers, including frequently asked questions and answers relating to the key areas of Ofcom's broadcasting code and relevant media law.

The joint initiative is in response to the deception issues that plagued the TV industry last year.

Five was fined £300,000 by Ofcom in June last year over Endemol-made phone-in quiz show Brainteaser, in which members of the production staff stood in as contestants.

In December 2007, Channel 4 was fined £1.5m by regulator Ofcom for causing "serious consumer harm" after viewers wasted millions entering phone in competitions on Richard & Judy and Deal or No Deal that they had no chance of winning, or which were unfairly conducted.

(BMcC)

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