April 9, 2008 / 1:09 PM / 10 years ago

Watchdog targets TV quizzes, sex chat and psychics

LONDON (Reuters) - Television channels that make money from premium-rate telephone quizzes, adult chat and psychic readings could be shut down unless they radically change their output, the media watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ofcom said stricter rules designed to protect viewers mean channels can only use expensive phone lines if there is “editorial justification”.

Under the proposed changes, channels that exist simply as vehicles for premium-rate lines would be closed down.

They would have to relaunch as “teleshopping” channels, but would then be governed by advertising rules that most existing adult or psychic channels would breach.

The advertising rules would also mean that ITV, Channel 4 and Five would have to cut their normal advertising if they chose to broadcast “teleshopping” content.

Ofcom’s review of premium-rate calls to TV channels comes after a string of cases where viewers were misled during phone-ins. The BBC, Channel 4 and GMTV were among the broadcasters fined for breaches.

“The new rules mean these channels face a much tougher regulatory regime which they must comply with,” said Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards. “Ofcom will ensure that programmes only use premium-rate telephone lines where there is sufficient editorial justification.”

The proposals say:

* Channels must not give “undue prominence” to premium-rate phone-ins

* Programmes must “consist primarily of content other than the promotion” of premium-rate calls

* The primary purpose of a programme must be editorial

The full proposals are online at www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/participation2/

The deadline for responses is May 22.

Reporting by Peter Griffiths; editing by Steve Addison

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