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Transactional TV Gambling to be treated as Teleshopping

On 26 May 2009, Ofcom announced in a statement on the Regulation of Transactional TV Gambling Channels that all transactional TV gambling services or transactional gambling “windows” on TV that invite viewers to pay money to take part in gaming (such as roulette or bingo) or to place bets (for example, on virtual horse or dog races) will be treated as teleshopping.

Ofcom stated that:

(a) Licensees who choose to provide services comprising transactional gambling should be treated as providing teleshopping, rather than editorial output (e.g. output designed to be “genuine programming”), which will therefore require a teleshopping licence. This will also apply to transactional gambling “windows” (gaming or betting features that appear on otherwise editorial services usually of between 15 minutes to three hours in length).

(b) Licensees will still be able to decide which output they wish to provide, i.e. a purely editorial gambling-themed service or a teleshopping service. However, to qualify as editorial, any such services should provide genuine programming and not include transactional gambling in which offers are made – express or implied – to viewers to participate in the services on screen.

Prior to this announcement, licencees who wished to provide transactional gambling services had the choice of the form of authorisation to apply for, and could either apply to be authorised for editorial output, or for teleshopping. This meant that similar channels were regulated under different codes and by different bodies.

Transactional gambling services will, as from 1 June 2009, be regulated as teleshopping, being advertising consisting of direct offers to the public, under the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice Code (“BCAP Code”) administered through the Advertising Standards Authority. Accordingly, licensees operating under an existing “editorial” licence in respect of transactional gambling services/windows should ensure they are also compliant with the BCAP Code.

Ofcom has indicated that the implementation of the policy change will be made quickly, with variations to existing licences taking place by mid-June. Ofcom will be contacting those licensees who hold “editorial” licences with details of the proposed variations and will provide the opportunity to make representations on the proposed variations.

The reclassification of transactional gambling windows within otherwise editorial content as teleshopping windows took effect from 1 June 2009. This is in line with the new rules set out in Ofcom’s Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising. This statement also releases, from 1 June 2009, non-public sector broadcasting (PSB) licensees from previous restrictions on the number of hours of teleshopping permissible on such channels. PSB channels will also be permitted to show teleshopping between midnight and 6am from 1 June 2009.
Please see our previous Law-Now for further details.

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