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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Treasury reviews TV quiz channels
ITV Play presenter Brian Dowling
Big Brother winner Brian Dowling is among the new channel's hosts
The Treasury has said it will examine the regulation of TV quiz channels following concerns from organisations such as the Gambling Commission.

ITV has launched its first such service on Freeview, ITV Play, hoping to cash in on a growing phenomenon.

Viewers dial a premium-rate number to play for big cash prizes, but ITV insists it is acting responsibly.

A Treasury spokesman said it would consider if such shows should adopt the same rules as other types of gambling.

Coronation Street competition

ITV Play features a quiz inspired by Coronation Street's Rovers Return, and another based on the Friends Reunited website, which is now owned by ITV.

There are approximately 15 dedicated quiz channels on digital TV, including Channel 4-owned Quiz Call.

ITV1 has already featured the programme Quizmania during its night-time schedule, while other broadcasters include interactive quizzes as part of their programming.

ITV Play will be ITV's first channel without any commercials - revenue comes from viewers' calls and text messages.

The move is expected to make up for a decline in advertising revenue.

No guarantee

Prize money is often high, while there is no guarantee that a caller will get through to the host of one of the shows.

A number of complaints about premium rate telephone numbers have been lodged specifically about quiz programmes.

In January, premium rate line regulator Ictis issued a code of practice to broadcasters requiring greater transparency in displaying the price of a call, the terms and conditions, plus contact details for the competition operator.
Coronation Street character Les Battersby, his former wife Janice and current partner Cilla
ITV Play includes a themed quiz based around Coronation Street

Media watchdog Ofcom said such channels were tightly policed.

Director of standards Chris Banatvala told BBC Radio Five Live: "People must tell the viewer how much the call is going to cost. If there are significant terms and conditions, those must be aired regularly.

"The competitions must be run fairly. You shouldn't mislead the viewers and say something is easy when in fact it is difficult. It's those sort of rules and guidelines we've put in place to make sure the viewer is protected."

Monitoring of callers

ITV has said it has the ability to warn viewers if they are spending considerable sums on its quizzes.

"If someone makes 20 calls, then a message will be relayed down the telephone telling them how many times they have rung," a spokesperson said.

"Obviously, it is constantly on the screen that calls cost 60p a minute. We also have a customer service person who will be tracking the calls.

"People do not have to call, it is a free country, but we have evidence with programmes like The X Factor that it is clear that people like to interact with TV."

ITV Play was launched on Freeview on Wednesday, and will appear on satellite and cable services later this year.

Ofcom's director of standards on the new ITV channel

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