Participation TV (US)
Participation TV (P-TV) shows are a testament to how media and telecoms have converged to enable viewers to become more personally involved with programs. Millions upon millions of votes are cast and viewers enjoy the ability to interact and feel a part of the show. As a result of their popularity, P-TV services are on track to become a major revenue source for mobile, broadcast and entertainment companies.
However, recent issues in the UK have been a wake up call for the P-TV industry. In one P-TV show participants were mistakenly overcharged and in others, viewers were encouraged to enter a competition when the winner had already been picked. Votes have also been delayed in the various platforms and have not been counted. These were not deliberate attempts to extract extra money from viewers but as a result of some very basic errors made by various parties in the P-TV value chain. The broadcasters, the wireless carriers and the shows themselves have taken a serious knock in terms of consumer confidence. While not all services are paid for using a mobile phone – sending a text to participate is still the primary method of voting or entering a sweepstake.
MEF recently launched a draft Framework for P-TV in the UK to discuss how to implement practical processes to ensure compliance and the best experience for viewers. The UK Framework is supported support from all parties involved in the P-TV value chain and also the national and independent regulators.
MEF’s Steps to Ensure a Positive Experience with P-TV in the US
While we are not suggesting that the problems in the UK have occurred in the US, MEF wants to take the lessons learned in the UK and apply them to the US market in a proactive and responsible way to ensure such errors are not repeated. MEF recognizes that the US has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from P-TV, which will help the broadcasters actively engage with their audiences. We want to raise awareness and discuss issues to prevent any incidences which might damage the reputation of the US P-TV industry.
To this end, in January 2008, MEF launched a Code of Practice, as well as a statement to accompany the Code.
If you would like to take part in workshops on P-TV in the US, please contact Karen Allen.
PhonepayPlus Consultation - STOP Command
PpP It has issued a Notice to the industry that states that any service which does not respond to consumers texting a STOP command will be immediately subject to an Emergency Procedure investigation. During this time the service will be blocked from operating until an adjudication is made.
PhonepayPlus has issued a consultation which contains new proposals for the way in which mobile content services are promoted and operated in the UK. In particular, there are proposals specifically covering:
- Subscription services
- Promotional text messages and
The proposals can be found at: www.phonepayplus.org.uk/consultations/. The closing date for responses is 11 September 2008.
At the same time as the PpP consultation was issued, the European Commission announced that it will launch its own inquiries into many ringtone websites across Europe following a comprehensive review of advertising throughout the European Union. The Commission claims that it found that more than 90% of websites selling ringtones for mobile phones to children and teenagers are misleading them with unclear charges and confusing information. The move on ringtones follows a year-long sweep of more than 500 websites across the 27-nation EU with findings prompting further investigation of 80% of sites for possible breaches of consumer law.
You will all recall that MEF produced a briefing document written by DWS a few weeks ago on the importance of complying with the new Unfair Commercial Practices Directive which now needs to be revisited
Time to take action
MEF is establishing a working committee to oversee the development of a consensus response to PhonepayPlus. The Committee will also liaise to construct a document for submission to the European Commission in order to help them contextualise the issues and work with them to ensure satisfaction for the presentation of key information in advertising material.
Please contact Suhail for more details.