Ofcom raps Nickelodeon over reverse calling service sponsorship

LONDON - Viacom-owned channel Nickelodeon has been censured by Ofcom because the 0800 Reverse sponsorship of Nickelodeon's TEENick programming strand did not include the cost of the service.

Non-contract mobile phone users with no credit can use the 0800 Reverse service to make a phone call but while the call is free to the caller, the service charges the receiver of the call at least £3.99.
 
The sponsorship idents for the 0800 Reverse service contained images of the words "OUT OF CREDIT!" and a mobile phone and ended with the words "0800 REVERSE -STAY CONNECTION TO HOME" but did not explain the cost of the service.
 
Nickelodeon claimed it had not included product information in the ident because recent decisions published by Ofcom found broadcasters in breach of the code over sponsor credits containing advertising messages. These included Curry's sponsorship idents for Sky's 'The Simpsons'.
 
However, Ofcom said Nickelodeon should have known that pricing disclosures should have been treated as necessary in credits for the 0800 Reverse service, since previous rulings on ads for 0800 Reverse criticised the service for not giving due prominence to its charges.
 
In its ruling, Ofcom said the omission of pricing information had the potential to mislead the viewers about the service, namely that it involves a significant cost, and so breached rules 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code.
 
The programming strand was aimed at girls between the age of nine and 12 and Ofcom said the absence of pricing information and the freephone prefix of the service had the potential to mislead younger viewers into believing the service is free and so the credits were in breach of rule 7.1.1 of the BCAP Television Advertising Standards Code.
 
Accordingly, the sponsorship was in breach of rule 9.3 of the Broadcasting Code and the idents cannot be used again.