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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 07:25 GMT
Quiz shows are gambling, say MPs
ITV Play's The Mint
ITV Play has earned millions for its parent company
Late-night quiz shows where viewers call premium rate telephone numbers to answer questions should be subject to gambling laws, a group of MPs has said.

The culture, media and sport committee criticised the shows for being unfair and called for greater regulation.

They said viewers on such quiz channels were often egged-on to call even when they could not win any prizes.

One, channel ITV Play, was recently rapped by media regulator Ofcom for making its answers too obscure.

Viewers complained after two answers to the question "what items might be found in a woman's handbag" were revealed to be balaclava and Rawlplugs.

'Lack of transparency'

The MPs said puzzles on all such programmes should get third-party approval before they are broadcast.

And they recommended that viewers should be given more information about the likelihood of getting through to the studio, and be told the cost of repeat calls.

It is a matter of luck whether a call is connected to the studio
Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The MPs' report stated: "We believe that call-TV quiz shows generally look and feel like gambling.

"It seems to us that call-TV quiz shows should constitute gaming under the Gambling Act 2005, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission should consider this as a matter of urgency."

If the shows were classed as a lottery, they would be obliged to give 20% of their profits to good causes.

It seems to be a just a televised version of a fruit-machine
Paul Davies, Swindon

The committee complained about "a lack of fairness and transparency", saying players were generally not told that "it is a matter of luck whether a call is connected to the studio and that the chances of getting through are very slim."

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said they had heard "some pretty disturbing evidence" of people being encouraged to call more times than they could afford.

The report cited one individual who received a bill for 348 for 15 calls to such channels, and a parent whose son and his babysitter ran up unauthorised bills of 700.

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