Thursday, January 31, 2008

USA - mobile entertainment code of practice

MEF Develops Self-Regulation for P-TV Services in the US to Ensure Healthy Future of Interactive Television

The Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) today launched its US Participation TV (P-TV) Code of Practice at NATPE Mobile++ in Las Vegas following a series of industry-wide consultations and meetings.

P-TV services provide viewers the ability to interact with television shows – for example, where viewers are asked to text in votes or enter games using their mobile phones. There has been significant growth in P-TV services over the past 12 months in line with the global trend of consumers wanting to interact with their favorite TV programs. However, in certain countries around the world, especially in those more mature markets, P-TV services have been hit by a series of basic, procedural errors that have led to consumer harm and, arguably, a lack of trust in the broadcast channels, the wireless carriers and the TV shows themselves. For example, entries were being accepted for votes or competitions after the official closing time, primarily due to latency issues with capacity, and a lack of pricing transparency was leading to consumer confusion over the cost of services.

The Code is designed to prevent the sorts of issues that have occurred in other territories and safeguard the future of a nascent but already successful market in the US.

MEF’s Code provides a practical framework on issues such as the presentation of pricing information on TV, radio and in print to dealing with consumer queries, building viewer-friendly applications which are easy to use and putting in place mechanisms for refunds. The Code also makes reference to existing US legislation and the FCC “Truth-in-Billing” principles to improve consumers' understanding of their cell phone bills.

Since July 2007, MEF has held two public consultations and numerous meetings with industry companies covering all aspects of P-TV delivery and operation to sustain and grow the industry. MEF’s Code provides a practical framework on relevant issues such as pricing, refunds and procedural management. It also seeks to help brands and sponsors with assurances that consumer protection is of paramount importance as there are clear signs that this is an area which will attract substantial advertising and sponsorship revenues in the future.

Ted Cohen, MEF Americas Chairman, commented: “Interactivity with services is one of the most exciting developments for consumers and the industry. Today, millions of consumers interact with television shows using their mobile phone, fixed-line and internet. In the future consumers will be interacting with shows broadcast directly to their handsets. To ensure the successful and safe growth of the P-TV industry, it was vital that the industry came together and put in place self-regulatory measures. This is precisely what the MEF P-TV Code does.”

Edward Boddington, founder of Telescope, Inc., an early entrant in the US P-TV market, and Board member of MEF Americas, states: “The MEF Code addresses the need for practical guidance covering all parts of the mobile entertainment ecosystem. Shows continue to attract record numbers of mobile texts and calls, and regulating this huge marketing opportunity efficiently and transparently is vital to its ongoing success. The work MEF has been undertaking with the industry through open and transparent discussions is invaluable in providing the necessary safeguards for ensuring consumers are protected and that P-TV services continue to retain their trust.”

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