Regulator Ofcom has imposed the largest-ever fine on a Brit terrestrial TV station — £300,000 ($600,000) — after finding that quizshow “Brainteaser” had faked winners.
Five, owned by RTL Group, said it was “disappointed” over the size of the fine, insisting it took all reasonable steps to ensure that “Brainteaser,” made by Endemol subsidiary Cheetah Prods., complied with Ofcom’s broadcasting code.
Move suggests that rivals ITV; Channel 4; breakfast station GMTV, part-owned by Disney; and the BBC could face similar fines for their own quizzers. Ofcom is expected to report on these cases later this summer.
Ruling relates to episodes of “Brainteaser” aired in January, February and March in which fake names were announced as winners on three occasions and staff posed as winners on two others.
Ofcom also found 11 further “similar or identical instances” of unfair competitions in “Brainteaser” and spinoff show “Memory Bank.”
Five told Ofcom there was “no evidence” that faking winners had been motivated by “dishonesty for either personal or financial gain” or to prevent prizes from being given away.
But the web admitted that “Endemol should never have permitted it to have happened in the first place or allowed it to have continued.”
Ofcom said viewers had been “substantially misled” and that the breaches could not be described as isolated.
The regulator added that Five had acted in “good faith at all times” and had not intended to deceive the public, but that it was the net’s responsibility as broadcaster of the show to comply with the code.
Ofcom CEO Ed Richards said: “We take these issues extremely seriously and will not hesitate to protect viewers’ interests. Every broadcaster needs to take very careful note of this decision.”