Thursday, June 26, 2008

GCap fiddles comeptition; gets burned

GCap must have their own entrance to Ofcom, they're carpeted there so often. After a run of misudgements and accidents - the Easter Bunny saying "motherfucker" at breakfast, that sort of thing - they've now been hit with a massive fine for cheating their audiences.

The Secret Sound contest was deliberately fudged so that contestants with the wrong answer were put on the air, so that the competition could carry on rolling along, with listeners spending their cash on the premium-rate entry line. The competition ran across the One network - which shows one of the advantages of networking 'local' programming: it allows you to rip off people right across the country with one central con, instead of having to arrange thirty smaller cons in each licence area.

Seriously, though, you wonder if networking isn't partly to blame: if the team putting together the competition lived and worked amongst their audience, they might be less keen to agree to a scheme to cheat them. Either because they'd have a stronger sense of community and responsibility, or because they know the people they anger drink in the same pubs, send their kids to the same schools and shop in the same branches of Tesco as they use. It's easy to see people as saps to be shaken hard for cash when they're not your neighbours.

GCap didn't help themselves by not being entirely helpful when their duplicity was revealed:

Ofcom added that GCap's efforts to remedy the breaches of its licence obligations were also "entirely inadequate".

"GCap was neither as full or as frank as it should have been either with Ofcom or its listeners," it concluded.

Ofcom said GCap had made matters worse by its behaviour after the incident had come to light.

The regulator said the company's internal investigation "did not appear… to have been either thorough or extensive", with no formal written report produced and GCap's board given only a "verbal report" of what had happened.

The piddling refund offered - two pounds, regardless of how much the company had taken from your pockets - also didn't go down well with the regulator.

The upshot? GCap has been fined £1.1 million quid.

There is a footnote, though: This represents twenty-five times the money GCap made from the competiton. ITV had made about fifty million from premium rate competitions during the time it wasn't playing fair - oddly, their fine wasn't one and a quarter billion.