Some You Don’t Win, Some You Lose

 
Years ago, I entered a Daily Mirror Back To The Future competition. The prize included a pair of tickets to see the film and a bodywarmer jacket with the Back To The Future logo on it. I filled in my postcard (you had to in those days. None of this premium phone number/red button malarky), sent it off and forgot all about it. Until I won. Me, the girl who never wins anything, I won! I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy, it was such a great thrill. But that was then and this is now; the innocence of those days is long gone.
 
Back in the late 1990s when I was working in radio, a friend of mine religously purchased a certain newspaper specifically for their competition regularly offering brand new flats as prizes. It was a token-based promotion and she entered each and every time they ran it. "Have you even thought about how easy it might be to influence the outcome?" I said during her fourth try. Puzzled, she asked what I meant. "Well, say you’re the person at the other end, unless stringent measures are in place, what’s to stop you from ensuring your friends, family or associates win?" I said. "If the winner isn’t chosen in public…you do the maths." She stopped buying the newspaper and ripped the tokens from the department copy instead. 
 
That’s why, when the string of TV phone-in/vote-in blunders and premium rate scandals first became public knowledge, I didn’t bat an eyelid. As far as I’m concerned, it was a racket waiting to be exposed. What I didn’t anticipate was the scale and depth of it. So far we have: Blue Peter fined £50,000 by media watchdog Ofcom after a child posed as a phone-in competition winner; GMTV fined a record £2m by Ofcom because callers to its premium rate competitions had no chance of winning; ITV dropping the British Comedy Awards after reportedly finding irregularities with phone voting on the 2005 show; X Factor overcharging viewers for votes cast via the red button in its most recent series; ITV1’s Dancing on Ice final not processing thousands of votes properly because of a "technical problem" at the Vodafone network; ITV’s phone-in quiz channel ITV Play scrapped after some of its premium-rate competitions were exposed for asking questions almost impossible to answer; Richard and Judy’s You Say, We Pay competition under fire because thousands of viewers called a premium-rate number after contestants had already been chosen; Five fined £300,000 for faking winners on its Brainteaser quiz show (it was found to have broken the Ofcom code five times, including one instance where a crew member posed as a "winning contestant").
 
Not only is that lot the tip of the iceberg, there wil be more to come. I’d bet my house on it. It’s long been my policy never to enter a competition that required me to pay a premium-rate for the privilege of doing so. Why should I? Those costs should be met by the promoter as far as I’m concerned. I never press that ‘red button’ on my remote either (unless it’s free). Then again, it’s easy for me to say; I’m not in a desperate financial situation, I don’t care who gets voted off certain reality/talent shows and I’m also suspicious by nature. Ergo, I wasn’t suckered in. But millions of trusting people were.
 
A long-awaited review into some ITV practices found "serious editorial issues" in Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Ant and Dec’s Gameshow Marathon and Soapstar Superstar. ITV’s chairman Michael Grade has promised a comprehensive scheme to reimburse affected viewers. He said he knew the report would make "deeply uncomfortable reading" and admitted: "My overall conclusion from the review is that there was a serious cultural failing within ITV." No Michael. The failing is, quite possibly, media-wide. Personally, I won’t be voting and I won’t be calling. Instead, I’ll look out for these immortal words: ‘answers on a postcard please’.
 
Are you still going to enter premium-rate competitions? Will you be voting to keep your favourites in on various reality/talent shows? Let me know by adding a comment below.
 
Today I am mostly lovin’ – The Queer As Folk repeats on More4. Great show. And how skinny was Coronation Street’s Antony Cotton back then?
 
Today I am mostly hatin’ – UKTV Gold for taking Dallas off weekdays again. Cliff’s in a coma UKTV Gold! You people have rotten timing. 
 
MSN Editor Coops
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18 Responses to Some You Don’t Win, Some You Lose

  1. Unknown says:

    I AM AFRAID I  WAS ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO ALLWAYS PHONED IN TO TRY AND WIN SOMETHING,UNTIL MY 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER PHONED INTO CBBC TO ENTER A COMP AND AS SHE WAS LEAVNG HER ANSWER THE  WINNER WAS ANNOUNCED BUT THEY LEFT THE PHONE LINES OPEN,HOW MUCH MONEY DID THEY MAKE OUT OF ALL THE OTHER CHILDREN STILL ENTERING??????
     

  2. carl says:

    I totally agree, the whole system of phone in, red button, text etc etc is and always has been a total rip off. All TV companies should stop this practice now or suffer the inevitable consequences.

  3. dennis says:

    Reference you today I\’m most hating: Gave up watching Dallas a long time ago. It almost put me in a coma.

  4. dennis says:

    I live in the Isle of Man and used to watch Richard and Judy every morning (I am truly sorry to admit that.) Every day I watched their quiz and noted over the years that there had never been a contestant from the Isle of Man. Out of curiosity I decided to enquire if contestants from the IOM were allowed. (We (IOM) are part of Britain but not part of the UK and I wondered if this was the reason) After waiting for what seemed like decades, I finally got an answer, which was so ambiguous in its content, that today I still have no idea.

  5. Coops - says:

    Lolly, sorry to hear about your experience. If you can\’t trust CBBC – who can you trust? Just out of curiosity, I watched a bit of the ITV late night premium-rate quiz thingy. The presenter seemed to be doing a good deal of talking, as if desperate to fill time. Less callers perhaps? Or wishful thinking on my part…hmmm. Re: the question about the Isle Of Man – definitely food for thought. And (no name), pre Pam\’s dream, Dallas was superb. Check out any of its quotes to see the quality of the writing. Then again, one man\’s meat…

  6. Tom says:

    Nobody is forcing anyone to enter…….Anyone with half an ounce of common sense can suss out what it\’s all about………..The fool and his money easily parted???………..T 

  7. Gareth says:

    Well, here I go…….(takes a deep virtual breath)……ITS A DISGRACE!
    The revelation that TVPP (TV paying participation) was a money making scam all along came as no surprise to me either, Coops.
    What did get up my hooter was the obscene sight of Michael Grade, at his most earnest and business-like, trying to foist off the public with the miserable plea:
     "We did wrong, but we didn\’t do it for the money".
    IT WAS £8MILLION FOR HEAVEN\’S SAKE!!!  

  8. Gareth says:

    Further….(if I can resist pressing the send button by mistake in my white hot fury and indignation):
     
    Grade tried to justify the THEFT in this manner:
     
    "We didn\’t do it for the money, we actually did it to provide viewers with better programmes".
     
    IF YOU CAN\’T PROVIDE DECENT PROGRAMMING AND CONTENT WITHOUT RESORTING TO FRAUD AND THEFT THEN YOU ARE IN THE WRONG JOB, MATEY!
     
    And he had the barefaced gall to continue:
     
    "We consider that because our motives were in dishonestly defrauding the British public of this enormous amount of money were altruistic, we will not be sacking any of the producers or executives involved"
     
    SACKING IS THE LEAST THAT THESE THIEVES DESERVE. THEY SHOULD SUFFER THE  FULL AND UNINHIBITED PROCESS OF THE BRITISH LEGAL SYSTEM, RESULTING IN NAMING, SHAMING, DISQUALIFICATION AND IMPRISONMENT!!! FOR PRESIDING OVER THIS DISGUSTING CORRUPTION MICHAEL GRADE SHOULD BE ARSE-KICKED UP AND DOWN OXFORD STREET EVERY DAY FOR A SEASON OF ONE OF HIS EXACRABLE TELEVISION POTBOILERS!!!
     
    ….and the belt & bracered slime ball tried to make everything OK by suggesting that the ill-gotten procedes of this fraud would be donated to some charity or other. 
     
    I just wish I could reproduce on here the cloying fatuousness of his delivery, but I\’ll make do with paraphrasing him.
     
    Well, here\’s why I\’m so outraged. My disabled 85 year old mother loves her telly, it\’s her view on the world. One of her little pleasures was to actually ring up to these \’competitions\’ on occasion. Not for the winning, you understand, but to take part.
    She got enjoyment from participating.
     
    Now that this disgrace has been uncovered I WANT MY MUM TO RECEIVE EVERY SINGLE PENNY SHE HAS BEEN DEFRAUDED OF BACK. WITH INTEREST. NO P.R. REPRIEVE FROM SOME CHARITABLE BOOKKEEPING AND TAX AVOIDANCE WILL SUFFICE!
    I don\’t care if it costs Michael Grade and his accessories/associates in this fraud £50 million to compensate every single victim of this abominable CRIME.
     
    I think that\’s it, rant over…..till next time Coops. 
     
     

  9. Coops - says:

    Hi Gareth mate, thank you for your heartfelt comments. Feel free to rant away. It\’s an absolute disgrace indeed. How many rogue traders have the likes of GM:TV, ITV and Five exposed over the years? And iirony of ironies, there was some rogue trading going on within their own voting/premium-rate programming. Hope your mum gets back every penny. 

  10. Unknown says:

    Im missing Dallas too!
     
    As for the comps, well i certainly dont agree with the rip-off merchants, but honestly, the stupid questions they ask sometimes, do people not think its a big fat swizz just to rake in the ca$h?
     
    And why not show the comedy awards????? I love them. Just dont have the public vote. Or just do it via t\’interweb, and the old fashioned \’name on a postcard\’ way. Its not like they havent had plenty of time to organize it.
     
    Hxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  11. Nick says:

    I don\’t like to see anyone ripped off, i\’m not going to start a vigilante group or anything, but if people are naive/gulible enough then they should take their share of the blame. Of course in a perfect world there is no crime and no one wants to rip you off, no one is going to steal your identity and everything is fair but its not and you should really have the brains to question competitions like this. I\’m sceptical about the Daily Mail crossword and all they give away is a Dictionary.
     
    Oh and if you trusted the woman on "Brainteaser" you really are a poor choice of character. Okay its not her fault, she\’s probably only doing that gig because she\’s too old to be in Hollyoaks as a student and not old enough to be a mum yet. 
     
    What i\’m trying to say is that remember those Scratch cards where you win everytime you play….the chance of a "Speedboat, £25,000 TOP PRIZES GUARENTEED!!!!" Well it seems people have decided to televise that! Those Scratchcards have been getting away with it for years. Unless they\’re not a scam and i\’ve just had great luck(i\’m regretting not ringing them now…i could have a boat….or a top prize guarenteed.)   

  12. Sati Marie says:

    Ehh. I wasn\’t overly surprised that this happened, I was more surprised that Ofcom bothered to find out. In my skeptical mind, I just sort of assumed that most of the watchdog agencies for this sort of thing were as corrupt as the TV programmes, but I\’m happy to change my point of view. Now if only we had a company who\’d get money back from lying banks and the Tax Credits people…
     
    I tend not to believe in competitions. I\’d like to be able to believe, but I\’m generally of the opinion that you don\’t get something for nothing. About the only ones that I even give a chance are the magazines like Take a Break, and I\’m not convinced that even those work. (They say that they pick winners by choosing random envelopes from a bag…my mom\’s been entering for several years and I always decorate the envelopes with pretty pictures in order to make them more visible…hasn\’t worked though. *sigh*) Although I probably will keep entering; I do the puzzles anyway and it only costs a stamp.
     
    The thing that really drives me crazy is things like candy bar wrappers and coke cans that run competitions. You used to be able to just open and find out if you\’ve won, and they made their money from the sale of the items, but now all you get is a number to text, so they rake in the money through the texts people send, too. Not only is it greedy, but it makes it even easier to scam people, because if someone DID return a winning number, they could just lie about it.

  13. kenny says:

    Have never entered a phone in Comp, as i find the answers an insult. They are so easy it reduces your chances of winning to odds akin to the national lottery.
    If they were a lot more testing to your Intellect!! But they never will be as they just want as much money as possible.
    I thought there was supposed to be a Law bought in to make the questions a bit more difficult??
    Or did i just imagine it??
    Ken

  14. Coops - says:

    Thanks for your comments guys! Sati, you\’ve picked up on something that bugs the heck out of me. Those bloomin\’ text-based comps. Grrrrrrr! And Ken, stick around – you\’re killing me! But you\’re right. The premium rate comps that ask ridiculously easy questions do it for a reason – call volume. The Gambling Commission has indicated that it regards TV quiz shows as lotteries (if so, they\’d have to hand over 20% of their proceeds to charity), and I do recall an MP arguing that premium rate comps are, in effect, lotteries and should face the kind of regulation that Camelot operate under. I\’d love to see that happen…

  15. peter says:

    on x factor why don\’t they tell us how many votes each contestant got ?are they afraid we will know just how much money they make every time it is on from the viewers phone calls, also it would be interesting to see who got the most votes after every show and by how many they were ahead of the other contestants who managed to get through to the next round…

  16. Coops - says:

    Peter, as I understand it – there is a possibility that the person voted off the X Factor by the judges isn\’t necessarily the person with the lowest audience vote. Correct me if I\’m wrong someone, but doesn\’t Dermot state that if there\’s deadlock between the judges, the result is decided by the person with the fewest votes? Did Futureproof score more public votes than Hope? Hmm…

  17. Unknown says:

    Regarding The Age of Love, it is a sad fact that the sportspeople we admire on the field of play, are not always the human beings we want them to be off it. I guess this is just another exaample.

  18. Jerry says:

    I don\’t tend to watch much TV anymore.. spend too much time gambling.

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