UK quiz crisis impact horse racing’s Cheltenham Week

By Kevin Hilton
SVG European correspondent
Coverage of Cheltenham Week, which is among the highlights of the
horse racing calendar in the UK and began today (Tuesday), has been hit
by the phone-in quiz controversy currently plaguing British TV.
Broadcaster Channel 4 (C4) announced that it has taken “the
precautionary measure” of suspending phone-in competitions during its
racing programmes this week, citing a “minor technical problem” at its
service provider.

Doubts were raised after an independent consultant conducted a live
audit of C4’s weekly racing magazine programme, The Morning Line. This
examination has been running since February 24 and the problem was
noted during the broadcast of Saturday, March 10.

The problem occurred when the Monkey Business competition closed at
8.35 a.m., with a clear in-vision message stating the cut-off time, but a
fault misrouted a number of calls. The phone service provider, Eckoh,
was apparently not able to alter the message on the incoming lines to
alert callers that the competition had finished. Approximately 100
calls were received but C4 says these were logged and the charges
refunded to the callers.

A C4 spokesman said, “Given the circumstances we have taken the
decision to take our phone-in competitions off air during Cheltenham
Week as a precautionary measure. We plan to have these competitions
back on air as soon as we are satisfied that the services can operate
reliably.”
The main UK terrestrial broadcasters, C4, ITV, Five and the BBC, as
well as a number of digital services, have suspended phone-in
competitions amid allegations of high call charges and callers being
encouraged to ring in even though a contestant had been selected.