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Effective communications regulation in an era of convergence? The case of premium rate telephony and television phone-ins in the UK

Simpson, Seamus (2008) Effective communications regulation in an era of convergence? The case of premium rate telephony and television phone-ins in the UK. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract

This paper explores recent problems with Premium Rate Number Service (PRS) use in phone-ins and competitions in UK participation TV through a regulatory convergence analytical lens. In 2003, the UK government created the communications convergence regulator, Ofcom, yet PRS regulation continued to remain the responsibility of PhonepayPlus, originally established in 1986. The paper argues that Ofcom, aware of both the changing commercial priorities of UK broadcasters, as well as developments in PRS delivery, could have anticipated the TV phone-ins problem or, at least reacted to adverse developments more quickly than transpired. PPP was unable to achieve this because of its regulatory culture and relatively narrower focus. The consequences of the PRS saga have been significant. Damage to the reputation of the PRS business and, more significantly, commercial broadcasters, has occurred due to consumer mistrust. Citizen trust in public service broadcasting has been to some extent eroded. The regulatory remedies provided by Ofcom and PPP are likely to minimise any future abuses of the system. However, the fact that all premium rate number regulatory activity in relation to TV has still not been completely subsumed into the Ofcom departmental structure seems an operational anomaly.

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