The premium rate phone scandal, cont. 

11 April 2008

Here’s a question for you: What is Google best known for? Is it

a) Web services

b) Industrial manufacturing

c) Food recipies

If you think you know the answer (ha!) ring 09012 345678 with your answer for a chance to win £5,000 in our prize draw. Don’t worry, calls cost only £1 per entry.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is pretty much the difficulty level of Five’s after-the-show competitions. Tonight, it was NCIS. One of the more enjoyable of the cop/forensic show derivatives, our intrepid band of detectives with the Navy Criminal Investigative Service tonight had to work out how a man could lead two federal agents into a booby-trapped building (the booby trap in this case being the apparatus strapped to the suicide bomber’s chest), only for the SOCOs to conclude that he’d been dead at least 24 hours before the bomb went off.

It turns out that the person they saw entering the building was not the person who they found afterwards. The agent provocateur entered, followed by two NCIS guys. They both died when the bomb went off, and when the body parts of a third man were found, a leg here, an arm there, the torso and… er, better duck. I said DUCK, dammit!

Owwwwwwww! What just hit me?

Oh, you found his head, then. So that’s where it went. Pushed through the ceiling by the force of the blast. Trouble is, the post-mortem found that he’d already been dead for a day when his body was dismembered. He was actually innocent of any complicity in this dastardly deed. He’d been killed in advance, rigged up with the IED (army speak for improvised explosive device; that’s bomb to you and me); the agent provocateur enters, vanishes through the wall, the federal agents enter, and… BOOOOOOOM!

The building and the adjacent one had been used for some sort of magic show years ago, and the wall had a secret opening to the room next door. And guess what the question was? “How did the bomber escape?” Been paying attention? Here’s an easy one: have you actually seen the programme? Yes? Good, then you’ll have no trouble answering this question. Dial the number, there’s a good chap. Get the right answer and into the prize draw with you. Only a quid; best phone call you’ll ever make. There’s one born every minute.

The simplicity of the question gives it away. That, and the fact that you are told explicitly you can’t enter by e-mail or text message. Hobson’s choice – the phone or nowt. It is a tried and tested tactic: easy questions + premium rate phone lines == lots of callers and lots of money. The more people think they’ve got the right answer, the more likely they are to phone. The dollar signs light up in their eyes, and the cash register keeps pealing. Mugs.

Legally, this may be above board in a way that some of the high-profile scandals last year were not, but it is definitely something that Ofcom should look into.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Stephen Hopkins Contact More by me

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Thursday 25 May 2023