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Big Brother gets the rap

The UK’s Premium Rate Industry Watchdog, ICSTIS, has fined the firms behind Channel 4’s Big Brother TV show for misleading the public.

ICSTIS ruled that the voting system for Big Brother misled the public – who paid more than £0.50p for the privilege – after evicted contestants were allowed to return to the show which ran during the summer.

The ruling follows a vigorous campaign by one of the UK’s tabloid newspapers which encouraged viewers to complain after their text messages and premium line telephone calls were overturned by the programme’s producers and previously evicted tenants were returned to the competition.

The two companies who provided text and telephone voting facilities for Channel 4 were, according to ICTSIS, “found ‘guilty’ and asked to pay £80,000 costs.” Channel 4 immediately announced it would pay the costs on behalf of its contractors.

The Network for Online Commerce (NOC), the trade body for the Premium Rate Industry had expressed alarm that ICSTIS had reacted to the media campaign and was concerned that the wrong targets were being accused. The NOC did not believe that the voting issue should be allowed to imply that Premium Rate telephone services were at fault as it was purely a Channel4 programming matter.

Roy Ellyatt, chairman of NOC said: “It’s unfortunate that ICSTIS elected to pursue this and they were no doubt influenced by the media campaign. Big Brother is a game and at the end of the day nobody was harmed but Channel 4 did receive some excellent value for money publicity which assumedly made a significant contribution towards their “costs”. Since Channel 4’s revenues from voting are passed to charity it would be a nice gesture if ICSTIS could find it in their hearts to pass the £80,000 in the same direction.”

Big Brother is one of the UK’s most popular and best-funded programs. It is owned by content specialist Endemol and has experienced revenue growth of around 20 per cent since its inception at the turn of the century.

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