Ofcom allows mobile apps TV voting
Published Nov 8 2010, 18:13 GMT | By Andrew Laughlin
Ofcom has today published new guidelines to allow broadcasters to charge viewers for voting on TV shows via mobile applications.
Previously, paid-for participation in programmes was limited to premium rate services (PRS), such as phone-ins or text lines. However, broadcasters are increasingly launching mobile apps that enable users to vote on aspects of programmes or enter competitions.
The media regulator today said that any apps featuring ways to charge for audience participation should be placed in the same category as traditional PRS. It believes that paid-for apps or free apps that enable payments to be taken are "an acceptable form of premium-rated telephony service".
"Ofcom recognises the pace of change and innovation in the sector, and the advantages that evolving technologies offer to viewers and listeners," said the watchdog.
"We also understand that licensees will want to add emerging proprietary platforms to ways that viewers and listeners can contact them or interact with them, where this involves an additional element of financial benefit for the licensee."
It added: "We envisage that such apps will be linked to telephony platforms, i.e. they will not be self-standing mechanisms such as websites, independently existing payment methods and the like. We are however prepared to re-examine this area should developments make it desirable to do so."
Ofcom said that the mobile apps will be subject to all relevant rules in the Broadcasting Code, as with the use of conventional premium-rated telephony.
Broadcasters have also been told that any votes cast via apps must be made available for later verification in-line with their licence conditions. The new provisions will be included in all updated Ofcom guidance to accompany the revised Broadcasting Code.
Ofcom further noted that mobile apps differ from traditional PRS in that they are often tied to specific platforms, such as Apple's iPhone or Google's Android.
The regulator therefore warned broadcasters that "exposure for the app must be appropriately limited so as to comply with the undue prominence rule".