On Monday, TQS came out with its newest far-fetched idea: Call-TV, a daily 90-minute show in which people call in to win prizes. The reviews were unanimously unpleasant: Ridiculous. Tedious and repetitive. So bad it’s good. Frustrating. Worse than the Monsieur Showbiz reruns it replaced.
Oh, and it forgets how many Os are in Toronto.
In the current pathetic state of the mouton noir, it’s nice to see them go back to their roots as a low-budget network that’s willing to try anything and look pathetic doing it. I might even think of applauding it if it had been an original TQS idea instead of an Austrian creation (the show is even filmed in Vienna).
But there’s another thing that bugs me about it: you have to pay to take part. An entry fee of $1 per call or text to have a chance to win a prize (the show doesn’t take the first caller, but waits for a bunch of people to call in and then picks one at random).
Marketing contests and prize draws operating in Quebec and elsewhere are usually very careful about giving a “no purchase necessary” option in order to stay legal. Usually this involves sending a postcard or self-addressed stamped envelope, which nobody does because that costs money too. But for Call-TV, there is no option that forgoes payment. And since there is an element of pure chance involved, this should technically qualify as a lottery, no?
In the UK, the Call TV format was investigated to see if it qualified as gambling. The report didn’t make a conclusion, arguing that it was up to the courts to decide if this qualifies. (Even if it had reached that conclusion officially, the difference in laws means you couldn’t make the same conclusion in Quebec.)
Whether or not it successfully exploits a loophole in Quebec’s gambling law, or is even sanctioned by the government, it just rubs me the wrong way. It’s like a slot machine you can play at home. Is that really what you want in television?
At least, at $1 a call, compulsive gamblers can’t lose their life savings in 90 minutes.
UPDATE (June 9): La Presse’s Hugo Dumas did some calling to various government regulatory bodies (CRTC, Loto-Québec, Régie des alcools, courses et jeux, CBSC, Department of National Defence) and got responses ranging from “our lawyers are looking into it” to “technically it’s not our department”.