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Is it: a) A quiz? Or b) A lottery? If b) You're taxed 20/05/2007
James Robinson

The Gambling Commission is set to deal a major blow to broadcasters by ruling that quiz-style phone-ins should be classified as lotteries.

That means TV channels will have to donate a fifth of any profit they generate to charity. It will also lead to the competitions, in which viewers answer simple questions in an attempt to win a prize, being subjected to far closer scrutiny than ever before. Under-18s will also be banned from playing.

The commission, an independent body set up by the government to regulate the gambling industry, has been carrying out a consultation into the controversial quiz lines after it was revealed some viewers were being cheated.

Gambling Commission
Gambling Commission
It has engaged in a wide-ranging consultation and is due to issue a ruling next month. Political sources say it will find that the vast majority of quiz competitions involve no skill, and are effectively a game of chance. That means the games, a popular part of many hit shows, will be regulated more closely in future, unless the questions are made more difficult to answer.

The news will come as a blow to commercial broadcasters, including ITV and Five. ITV conceded last week that the negative publicity surrounding call-ins had dented its profits.

Some of Britain's biggest shows, including Blue Peter, Richard and Judy and GMTV, have been hit by the quiz line scandal. Some broadcasters chose a competition winner before lines had closed. Other shows were repeated but failed to warn viewers they could no longer win any of the prizes on offer.

Media watchdog Ofcom and Icstis, which regulates premium-rate phones lines, are carrying out separate inquiries into the quiz lines.