Ofcom fines Five £300,000

Channel punished for Broadcasting Code breaches in quiz programme

Ofcom has today fined Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd £300,000 for breaches of the Broadcasting Code in the transmission of the phone-in quiz programme, Brainteaser. This is the largest financial penalty the regulator has imposed on a public service broadcaster.

Ofcom found Five to have breached Rule 2.11 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code (“Competitions should be conducted fairly…”) when it faked winners and misled its audience in its programme Brainteaser. Fake names were announced as winners on three occasions and staff posed as winners on another two occasions. Ofcom also found 11 further similar or identical instances of unfair competitions in Brainteaser and Five’s spin-off programme Memory Bank.

The channel has blamed production company Endemol, makers of Brainteaser, for the problems. Five chief executive Jane Lighting said in a statement: 

“Five has always accepted that breaches occurred with regard to Brainteaser. However, we are disappointed with the very high level of the financial penalty imposed, especially as we believe Five took all reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure the programme complied with the Ofcom Code.

“We welcome Ofcom’s acknowledgment that Five acted in good faith at all times, did not intend to deceive the audience and took comprehensive steps to remedy harm, and that it was not Five’s intention to cause financial harm to viewers nor procure greater financial gain.

Ms Lighting added that it was Five who had notified Ofcom of events, and added that the channel had co-operated fully with the regulator.

Endemol UK, who apologised to viewers, said the mistakes were down to “an honest but misguided attempt to keep a live show running”.

In addition to the fine, Ofcom has also directed the channel to broadcast a summary of the finding on two separate occasions.

Investigations into potential breaches of the Code by quiz and audience participation programmes on other channels continue.