Big Brother Facebook fiasco: C5 to refund credits after social media vote failure

07/03/2012

Channel 5 has agreed to refund Big Brother viewers that lost out on the broadcaster’s Facebook voting scheme last year. The move comes after UK media watchdog Ofcom upheld complaints that viewers that had purchased Facebook credits to vote on the show’s contestants were unable to use them at certain times.

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Channel 5 will now let Big Brother viewers carry over surplus Facebook credits, or get a refund, if they were unable to vote in the show's evictions.

Channel 5 launched Facebook voting for the first time in the UK when it picked up Big Brother from Channel 4 last year.

Viewers were asked to purchase Facebook credits, priced 6.5 each with a minimum purchase of 10, to cast their votes for which contestants should be evicted.

However, during the live Big Brother final in November the service – supplied by Mobile Interactive Group - crashed leaving viewers unable to vote and stuck with credits that Channel 5 said it was not liable to refund.

Media regulator Ofcom received seven complaints about the failing and found that viewers were misled, albeit unintentionally, because they had been told they would be able to vote until the end of the live final which was not the case.

Big Brother bosses had not deliberately misled fans of the reality show and had taken action to avoid a similar incident in the future, it added.

The Facebook issue would not have affected the final result, which was won by Aaron Allard-Morgan, Ofcom stated.

Channel 5 said the server was “temporarily overloaded due to exceptionally high traffic level” but denied it had misled viewers as its terms and conditions stated that Facebook credits were non-transferable and that it accepted no responsibility for technical issues.

Ofcom said this did “not absolve it of its responsibilities to viewers” and reminded Channel 5 of its obligations under the broadcasting code.

Channel 5 did later allow the credits to be refunded or used on a subsequent series of Celebrity Big Brother. The broadcaster said the capacity on the server was being increased “sevenfold” ahead of future series to cope with demand.

The regulator said the fault didn't have any “material impact” on the outcome of the programme.

Channel 5, which had been broadcasting Big Brother for the first time, said: ‘Our procedures have been further tightened so that any such issues can be detected and resolved sooner.’

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