Adjudication of the Ofcom Content Sanctions Committee - 30 of GCap Media plc’s ‘One Network’ radio stations

Published date27 June 2008
IssuerOffice of Communications
Ofcom Content Sanctions Committee
Consideration of
sanction against
30 of GCap Media plc’s (“GCap”)
‘One Network’ radio
stations (“the licensees”)
For Breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (“the
Code”) of:
Rule 2.11: “Competitions should be conducted fairly,
prizes should be described accurately and rules should
be clear and appropriately made known.
Rule 10.10: “Any use of premium rate numbers must
comply with the Code of Practice issued by
In respect of the broadcast of a premium rate services
(“PRS”) listener competition, Secret Sound.
Between 15 January to 8 February 2007 (inclusive)
Decision To impose a financial penalty of a total of £1,110,000,
aggregated across the 30 licensees
(payable to HM
Paymaster General) and, in addition, to require each of
the 30 licensees to broadcast a statement of
Ofcom’s findings in a form to be determined by
Ofcom on two specified occasions.
On 6 June 2008, Glo bal Radio Group Ltd. (“Global”) completed its tak eover of GCap Media
plc. GCap is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Global.
For details of the 30 licensees, see paragraph 2.2, belo w.
This constituted a financial penalty of
to be imposed on each of the 30 licensees.
1.1 For the reasons set out in f ull in the Decision, under powers delegated from
the Ofcom Board to Ofcom’s Content Sanctions Committee (“the
Committee”), the Committee decided to impose statutory sanctions on the 30
licensees in light of the serious nature of their failure to ensure compliance
with the Code.
1.2 This adjudication under the Code relates to the broadcast of a PRS
competition by 30 of GCap’s ‘One Network’ radio stations
between 15
January 2007 and 8 February 2007. GCap responded to Ofcom’s
investigation and the sanctions process on behalf of all the relevant licensees.
1.3 Secret Sound was a four-week PRS listener competition. The competition ran
from 09:00 to 15:00 each week day, with one round per hour. A mystery
sound was broadcast and listeners were invited to enter each hourly round by
either calling or sending a text (or “SMS”) message to the stations for an
opportunity to guess the sound on air. According to the competition’s terms
and conditions, at the end of each round, an entrant would be randomly
selected from that round’s telephone and SMS entries, and their answer
would then be broadcast on air. If the answer was incorrect, all other entries
from that round would be discarded. Listeners would then be invited to enter
the next hourly round of the competition, in which the prize fund would be
increased by £100. This would continue until the sound was guessed
correctly. There were seven rounds per week day between 15 January and 8
February 2007 (i.e. a total of 133 rounds). During this time, four different
sounds were broadcast and correctly guessed.
1.4 Ofcom launched an investigation, following a complaint made to
PhonepayPlus by a whistleblower. The whistleblower alleged that GCap had
deliberately selected entrants with wrong answers to participate in the Secret
Sound competition on air.
1.5 Listeners entering by SMS were instructed to text the words “SECRET
SOUND” to the SMS entry number. However, some SMS entrants also texted
their guess as to the mystery sound and this information could be seen by the
the GCap employee who selected the entrants to go to air. Some of these
individuals who had texted the incorrect answer were deliberately chosen to
go on air by the GCap employee.
1.6 On 19 July 2007, PhonepayPlus recorded a breach of its Code of Practice
against GCap for misleading its listeners. GCap was f ined £17,500 and given
a formal reprimand by PhonepayPlus in respect of this breach. PhonepayPlus
then referred the case to Ofcom.
1.7 Having investigated the case, Ofcom found that the selection of SMS entrants
with incorrect answers to be put to air, in contravention of the competition’s
terms and conditions, was a deliberate and pre-meditated means of
preventing the prize from being won in that round. This led to another round
of the competition, in which the prize fund was greater, thereby increasing the
competition’s ‘entertainment value’. However, this practice resulted in those
listeners who paid to enter the affected rounds having no chance of winning.
For details of the 30 licensees, see paragraph 2.2, belo w.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT