Viewers of 'unfair' TV quiz to get refunds on premium call rate


VIEWERS OF TV3’s controversial Play TVquiz programme are to receive refunds totalling €47,000 after it was found they had racked up premium-rate phone charges without a fair chance to win.

The refunds will go to viewers of two programmes broadcast in December found to contain unfair and misleading questions.

The Broadcasting Authority has upheld more than 30 complaints against Play TVbut the latest ruling comes from RegTel, which has responsibility for regulating premium-rate phone services used by television programmes.

TV3 axed the show, in which viewers answered general knowledge questions by ringing a premium-rate number, last March, saying the audience had fallen off.

All callers to the show were charged €1.50 a call, more for ringing from a mobile, but only a few got to take part in the quiz. Television shows using such numbers require authorisation from RegTel, which then monitors compliance with a code of conduct.

Yesterday, it said Play TVdid not operate within the terms of the authorisation it received in May 2009. Two programmes were investigated and found to contain misleading and unfair questions.

In one programme, a “matchsticks competition” mixed mathematical symbols, making a unique correct answer impossible, according to the regulator. It ordered the refund of almost €36,000 spent by viewers on this programme. Separately, the “legs on the bus competition” broadcast on Christmas Eve did not have one unique answer, it was found.

This accounted for another €11,000 in refunds. RegTel imposed an administrative charge of more than €2,000.

The refunds will be made by Phonovation, an Irish company which provided the premium-rate services. TV3, which broadcast the programmes made by Telemedia-interacTV of Hungary, said the ruling had nothing to do with it financially.

Last January, the Broadcasting Authority found Play TVhad engaged in “misleading and unfair” practices, criticism rejected at the time by TV3.

Under new legislation, television stations and service providers will have to apply to communications regulator ComReg for a licence to broadcast competitions or to run phone-in contests.

ComReg will take over responsibility for the monitoring of premium rate services from next July.