The BBC has announced it will introduce a new policy this week to improve the clarity and understanding of audiences in the way programmes which use premium rate phone calls are priced.
From this week, premium rate calls to BBC programmes, excluding charity appeals such as Comic Relief, Children in Need or Restoration, are to be capped at 15 pence.
The corporation says the new policy of having just two premium call categories “will make it even clearer to audiences what to expect when they interact with BBC programmes in competitions or votes.”
Currently a number of BBC programmes not directly related to a charitable appeal, such as Strictly Come Dancing, take the opportunity to raise a small additional sum for the charities by increasing the call price, usually by 10 pence. This will no longer happen under the new policy.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said: “BBC programmes do not make money from premium rate calls and we’ve always told viewers and listeners the costs of calling to enter competitions or to vote. But I want this to be even clearer.”
“In future, audiences can be clear that these calls will be capped at 15 pence unless they are directly related to a charity appeal.”
“I do understand that this will mean that slightly less money will go to the charities as a result of the new policy, but we’re already talking to them about other ways of supporting their work.”
The move follows a number of scandals affecting all broadcasters which saw viewers encouraged to participate in premium rate votes, the results of which were either ignored or changed by the programme’s production team.
Earlier this year ITV revealed that production personnel on a number of their hit shows had conspired to defraud viewers by fixing the outcomes of votes and competitions.
The broadcaster is currently offering a refund to affected viewers, details of which can be found on their website.