L’instant gagnant is a television call-in contest program broadcast on V. V broadcasts the program from 11:30 pm to 6:00 am. The program is produced and paid for by a company known as TéléMedia InteracTV. It features hosts who present quizzes and puzzles on the screen and who ask the viewers to phone the program for the chance to solve them and win cash prizes. Each call costs $1 regardless of whether or not the call is transmitted to the host. In addition, that information appears at the bottom of the screen and the host repeats it several times during the broadcast. The prize amount is generally around $100 at the beginning of the program and increases progressively as the program continues. The numbers to call, for both land lines and mobile devices, remain on the screen throughout the broadcast.
Each episode is preceded by a message in audio and video formats:
The following program is a paid commercial announcement.
A viewer complained that the program in general is a scam. He supported his view by providing detailed accounts of the September 15 and 17, 2012 episodes, noting the elements that concerned him. He complained that there is always a long period during which the host claims to receive no calls, even when the puzzle is very easy and that this generates considerable revenue for the production company and broadcaster since viewers call in at $1 per call thinking that they will get through to the studio to solve the puzzle and win the money. He provided the “spot the differences between the images” game of September 15 as an example. He also complained that the host would claim that a certain prize amount was their “maximum”, but then a few moments later they would increase the amount again. He complained about the silly statements made by the hosts, characterizing some of them as “condescending” towards callers.
The viewer also complained specifically about the mathematical game that appeared on the September 17 episode. It featured a mathematical equation beside a photograph of the rappers 50 Cent and Ciara. The contest was to [translation] “Add all the digits and numbers that you see in the image”. There were both arabic and roman numerals, as well as digital numbers and the word “cent” (which means “hundred” in French) repeated multiple times. No one provided the winning answer. The viewer complained that the words “cent” were too difficult to see on a regular-sized television screen and, although the host displayed the solution at the end of the progam, the methodology was not explained. He also pointed out that even based on their own calculation displayed on screen, the answer was incorrect. A list of the numbers to add up was displayed on screen and the answer noted at the end was “1643”. If one totalled the numbers, however, the answer was actually 1743. (A description of some of the relevant puzzles can be found in Appendix A, available in French only.)
V responded to the complainant in a letter of October 22. The station explained that L’instant gagnant is a paid program (i.e. the producer purchases the broadcast time from the station; the latter is not involved in developing the content). V added that all of the rules for partcipation are explained by the host of the show and displayed in words on screen. There is only one possible answer to each contest, which is revealed at the end of the game. Anyone who telephones the program’s number hears a message clearly explaining the costs associated with participating, even if the caller does not get through to the studio. Calls are selected at random by an automated telephone system, which has been verified by an independent third party. It also suggested that the time between calls varies throughout the program, but averages four minutes.
The complainant indicated his dissatisfaction with V’s response in an email to the CBSC of October 22, particularly the fact that V did not explain the methodology for the solutions for certain puzzles. V sent an additional letter to the CBSC on February 20, 2013 regarding the game of September 17. It explained that the graphic artist responsible for preparing the image illustrating the solution had accidentally added an extra “100” to the list of numbers displayed on screen in the calculation which had not been in the actual equation. The one correct answer was in fact 1643, not 1743 and this was the answer found in the sealed envelope and communicated to viewers both verbally and visually at the end of the game. V also noted that, following the publication of the CBSC’s other decision regarding this same program, puzzles of that variety were no longer used by the show’s producer. The episodes treated in this decision, however, appeared prior to the release of the decision V re L’instant gagnant (CBSC Decision 11/12-1452+) of December 20, 2012. (The correspondence can be found in Appendix B, available in French only.)
The Quebec Regional Panel examined the complaint under Clause 12 (Contests and Promotions) of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) Code of Ethics:
All on-air contests and promotions shall be conceived and conducted fairly and legitimately and particular care shall be taken to ensure that they are not misleading, potentially dangerous or likely to give rise to a public inconvenience or disturbance and that any prizes offered or promises made are what they are represented to be.
The Panel Adjudicators read all of the correspondence and viewed the two episodes in question. The Panel concludes that V breached Clause 12 of the CAB Code of Ethics regarding the program of September 17, 2012. With respect to the September 15, 2012 broadcast, the Panel again concludes that it cannot rule on off-air elements. It does not have the jurisdiction to comment on off-air issues, such as the telephone call assignment system.1 In addition, the Panel did not consider that the tone of the hosts constituted a violation of any CBSC-administered codes.
With respect to the September 17 episode, there was an error in the solution to the mathematical problem displayed on screen. This was admitted by the broadcaster.2 The addition of the numbers in the original image yielded 1643 and this was the answer in the envelope, but the solution presented on screen instead totalled 1743 due to the graphic artist’s error mentioned above. The Panel can only conclude, as it has in the past,3 that V breached the provisions of Clause 12 of the CAB Code of Ethics regarding Contests and Promotions by broadcasting a contest for which the result was misleading. It was five months after the broadcast of the program that V acknowledged that there had been an error in the displayed answer.
In all CBSC decisions, the Panels assess the broadcaster’s response to the complainant. The broadcaster need not agree with the complainant’s position, but it must respond in a courteous, thoughtful and thorough manner. In this case, V provided an adequate reply to the complainant, outlining its view of the broadcast. The broadcaster fulfilled its obligations of responsiveness and, subject to the announcement of this decision, nothing further is required in this regard in this instance.
In addition, the Panel notes the fact that, following the publication of the CBSC’s decision in file 11/12-1452+ on December 20, 2012, V and the program producer committed to cease broadcast of this type of mathematical game; that is to say, after the broadcasts that are the subject of this decision. It also notes the fact that the producer committed to reimburse the telephone fees for the people who called during the episodes at issue in the December 20, 2012 decision.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION
V is required to: 1) announce the decision, in the following terms, once during prime time within three days following the release of this decision and once more within seven days following the release of this decision during the time period in which L’instant gagnant was broadcast, but not on the same day as the first mandated announcement; 2) within the fourteen days following the broadcasts of the announcements, to provide written confirmation of the airing of the statement to the complainant who filed the Ruling Request; and 3) at that time, to provide the CBSC with a copy of that written confirmation and with air check copies of the broadcasts of the two announcements which must be made by V.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has found that V breached the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics in its broadcast of L’instant gagnant on September 17, 2012. The game presented on that episode lacked transparency and the answer displayed on air was incorrect, in violation of Clause 12 of the Code.
This decision is a public document upon its release by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
1 TQS re Call TV (CBSC Decision 08/09-1834 et -1856, August 11, 2009); V re Call TV (version 2) (CBSC Decision 09/10-1563 and -1735, January 25, 2011); and V re L’instant gagnant (CBSC Decision 11/12-1452+, December 20, 2012).
3 TQS re Call TV (CBSC Decision 08/09-1834 and -1856, August 11, 2009); CIII-TV (Global Ontario) re Play TV Canada (CBSC Decision 09/10-0201+, April 1, 2010); TQS re Call TV (version 1, round 2) (CBSC Decision 08/09-1827+ and 09/10-0025+, August 24, 2010); V re Call TV (version 2) (CBSC Decision 09/10-1563 and -1735, January 25, 2011); and V re L’instant gagnant (CBSC Decision 11/12-1452+, December 20, 2012).