Ofcom has reprimanded Travel Channel International after an investigation found instances of competition winners being chosen by staff “pointing at a spreadsheet” and UK entrants being deliberately prevented from being able to win some prizes. The channel, broadcast across the UK and Europe since 1993, has been “put on notice” by the UK media regulator, which has warned that there will be a “significant sanction” if any other instances of viewer deception emerge.
Ofcom launched an investigation into the holiday and travel broadcaster after being contacted by a complainant who made serious allegations about the conduct of viewer competitions dating back more than a decade. Ofcom says evidence emerged of three instances of competitions conducted unfairly.
The Travel Channel admitted “on at least three occasions” during that period UK viewers were given no chance of winning on the basis of a company policy to favour international entrants.
The media regulator said it found “severe compliance failure” in the way the competitions were run in the past at the Travel Channel. “The fact that there had been three instances of unfair winner selection demonstrated that the licensee had operated for a long period with inadequate processes and oversight,” said the media regulator. “In Ofcom’s view, this was a severe compliance failure.”
Ofcom did not impose a sanction because Travel Channel no longer uses premium-rate phone services for competitions, that since August 2007 winners are randomly picked using a computer software tool, and that staff had been reminded “of their responsibilities under the broadcasting code”.