CyberTech Rambler

August 14, 2006

Is it a TV show with phone-in service, or a phone-in service with TV show

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:06 pm

There is an interesting story on BBC News about the text messaging and phone-in provider for UK’s Channel 4 Big Brother show being investigated for “Misleading Information” rather than the producer of the show or Channel 4 itself. I find it interesting as it turns my notion of phone-in show upside down.

At issue is whether the “return of ex house mate” to the Big Brother house consititute “misleading” advertisement since the joe public had phoned in precisely to kick them out. This blog post is not going to investigate this, nor is it going to explain why CTRambler’s thinks people must be crazy to watch Big Brother, let alone pay money to vote housemate out. Instead, CTRambler is going to ask this question: Does this means we should emphasize on the phone-in service to say this is premium rate call service that so happen to have a longer-than-30-seconds dodgy advertisement on the tele like most other phone service, or should we emphasize on the TV show element and say this is a TV show with phone-in as a side event to earn money. This, I believe, as great implication in what constitute an “interactive” service on TV, especially one that charges the public.

Well, most people will see it as a TV show with phone-in as garnish. But Ofcom, the regulator investing this issue actually has authority over both broadcast and telephone services  but it chooses to deal with this as telephone service. Whether or not this is indicative that it thinks it is a phone service with TV as sideshow is not clear. It may be that it simply view that there is a question to answer with respect to the phone in service only, or it is still reviewing whether it wants to persue investigation about the broadcast.  In fact, it is likely to not have an opinion on this.

Although it might not seem obvious to most people, including me and apparently (but may be they are playing dumb) the phone companies involved, and probably the production company and Channel 4, there is a good reason  to treat it as phone-in servie with TV as side show, especially if you take the position of the viewer. Tele is free (as in free beer) as far as viewing Channel 4 is concerned (the TV license only pays for BBC TV broadcasting), so if those sorry Big Brother viewer pays to participate in the sorry show, it make sense to place emphasis on the payment issue to protect those sorry people. This means giving prominence to the reason for paying for the phone service. Having said that by calling the phone service you put your votes in to “remove somebody” without explicitly telling them that the same person will be “put back” might consititute misleading.

Regulatorily, this distinction may be important legally. Nowadays we see emergence of dedicated “Gameshow” channels and programs where they recoup cost and earn money through viewers “phone-in”. Regulating them as “phone-in” service might shift emphasis on what they can or cannot do.

Psychologically for the viewers, there is a also a great impact as users are more likely to trust TV not to lead them astray then phone-in services.

As for me, it give me another ammo to desuade people from calling phone-in show. Most people are more willing like to see themselves as participating in a TV show and not premium rate punter.

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