Endemol’s Cheetah found to be a cheater

Personally I can’t understand anyone phoning into those daytime or late-night quiz shows with banal questions in the vain belief that they have a reasonable chance of winning. Clearly the questions themselves are simply a tick in a box to avoid the complex legal implications of the lottery and gaming laws. The fact they have questions make it a test of skill rather than simply one of luck, supposedly, but given the ridiculously easy puzzles asked (“how many letters are there in the word “stupid”?) I find this quite strange. Surely the only thing easier to see than the answers is that anyone who is even half awake will know the correct response, and the winner is simply selected at random. How is that not a lottery?

Anyway, despite the fact that these are a licence to print money, it seems this was not enough for the aptly named Cheetah, a subsidiary of TV production company Endemol.

In a ruling by Ofcom today against Channel 5, the broadcaster was fined £300,000 – a record for Ofcom’s Content Sanctions Committee. The basis for the fine was that competitions were not run fairly on several occasions as fake winners were announced and no prize money given away.

…between January and March 2007, Brainteaser had on three occasions entered fake names as competition winners and on two occasions production staff posed, on air, as ‘winners’.

Viewers were misled into believing that genuine winners had been awarded a prize when in some cases no-one had actually won the competition in accordance with the programme’s rules.

During its investigation, Ofcom was also informed by Channel 5 that … this had happened on seven separate occasions between January 2003 and November 2006. Further, another four similar or identical instances of unfair conduct had occurred in the programme Memory Bank (a spin-off of Brainteaser) during 2004.

The size of the fine reflects the serious loss of trust in public broadcasters that this sort of behaviour can cause, as well as acting as a warning to others to ensure their procedures are much more tightly controlled.

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