TV3 pulls 'Play TV' as viewers turn off

Sat, Mar 6, 2010, 00:00

TV3 HAS axed the controversial late-night game show Play TVwith immediate effect, blaming a fall-off in viewers in recent weeks.

The game show has been the subject of numerous complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland since it first aired last May. Earlier this week the watchdog upheld three further complaints against Play TV, to add to 26 previously rulings against the programme in 10 months.

In January the authority found that it had engaged in practices that were “misleading and unfair” and chairman of the authority’s compliance committee, Prof Chris Morash, described Play TVas a matter of “ongoing concern”.

His committee reported there was a “lack of transparency about the rules of engagement, the presentation was misleading and the quiz was conducted unfairly”. It also criticised as “inaccurate” the show’s suggestions that all viewers had to do was ring a number and solve a puzzle to win a cash prize.

TV3 rejected criticism of the show and said there had been in excess of 2,000 winners and €600,000 won in prizes over the course of its 10-month run.

While as many as 6,000 people rang the premium rate number each night at a cost of €1.50 a time in order to answer sometimes extremely difficult riddles, only a small fraction of callers were actually put live on air and given a chance to win the cash prizes.

In a statement, TV3 said the programme had given it “the revenue to prevent further job cuts at the low point of the recession”. It said it had initially proved to be “very popular with viewers” but said “recently viewership to the service has declined”.

At the peak of its popularity, the programme was attracting in the region of 16,000 viewers nightly, with between 3,000 and 6,000 people calling the premium rate telephone number. TV3 has declined to say how much money it made from the programme, although based on its own caller numbers, it would have had revenue of about €2.5 million annually.

In yesterday’s statement TV3 said it would consider the introduction of new “interactive services” subject to “viewer demand” and said commercial revenues from such services were used to “fund the constantly increasing output of Irish programming, now accounting for over a third of TV3’s schedule”.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan, a fierce critic of the programme, “noted the decision” , according to spokesman and said the public need to be able to trust broadcasters.