Competition and vote guidance

Key points

  • The following guidance assumes that entry to competitions or voting is free. If you wish to run a premium rate competition or vote this must be discussed with Legal & Compliance as additional provisions and rules apply to these types of services.
  • No competition or vote should commence and/or be promoted on air or published on the website without discussing with the content lawyer/compliance advisor.
  • Any brands associated with the competition should not be given undue prominence.
  • Consider how any competition or vote data is being collected and stored.


A competition is any service or arrangement where a prize is awarded. The basic principles underpinning any Channel 4 competition are:

  • Fairness – all entrants must be treated fairly and equally. For example, winners must be picked after the closing of the competition and not before. Winners should not be selected on the basis of any criteria apart from those specified in the competition rules as the basis for selection, or randomly if that is the basis for selection of the winner.
  • Transparency – competition rules must be clear. Entrants need to be given as much information as possible to enable them to decide whether or not to enter a competition and to understand the basis upon which the winner of the competition will be decided. For example, if the prize is a holiday abroad and travel insurance is not included but must be purchased by the winner, then this must be made clear in the competition rules.

This guidance applies to competitions that have a multiple-choice question, are a prize draw, or require submission of creative entries where the selection of winning entries is open to subjective interpretation as to their quality or other attributes.

This guidance also applies to votes, particularly where these may affect the substance in the content. 

All votes and competitions must be discussed in advance with the Legal & Compliance team.

General guidance

All competitions and votes must be conducted in a manner that ensures fair and equal treatment of all eligible entries and no disadvantage to entrants.  

All competitions and votes must be carried out by Channel 4, with Channel 4 retaining and exercising editorial control at all times (including of any copy or questions submitted by a third party).

In all circumstances Channel 4 must approve competition and vote copy before it goes live on a website, on social or on air. No competition or vote should commence and/or be uploaded onto the Channel 4 website or promoted on social media or on air without Channel 4’s prior approval.

Additional provisions apply to competitions run by Channel 4 on behalf of or in conjunction with a third-party advertiser. These will be most relevant for competitions run by the Advertising Sales/Partnerships teams and where the competition is designed to drive sales of a particular product or service. If you’re unsure, please contact the Legal & Compliance team for more information.

Note that Sections 1 and 2 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code contain further rules relating to on-screen competitions. They are summarised below:

  • Competitions and voting must be conducted fairly. 
  • Viewers must not be materially misled about any competition or voting.
  • Broadcasters must draw up rules for competitions and voting, which should be clear and made known to viewers where appropriate. 
  • Significant conditions that may affect a viewer’s decision to take part must be stated at the time the competition is promoted/advertised.
  • Prizes must be described accurately.

Premium rate services

Premium rate telephone and text numbers and other services should not be included in content unless their inclusion is editorially justified. They should not be promoted within content unless they fall within the definition of "programme-related material", in which case:

  • full control, including editorial control, of any premium rate service messages must be retained by Channel 4
  • the arrangements must comply with the Phone-paid Services Authority code of practice
  • the service must only convey information which is directly relevant to the content with which it is associated and which is of benefit to viewers 
  • the service must not promote any product or service, except programme-related materials
  • detailed rules on the provision of on-screen call charge and other information apply.

Such services should only be set up and included in a programme or content with the full involvement of the relevant staff at Channel 4.

Please discuss any proposed use of premium rate services in advance with the Legal & Compliance team.

Commercial references within competitions on air

Game shows and competitions, either for viewers or for audience members in the studio, are an established part of many types of programming and will often have brand names or commercial organisations associated with them, either in connection with the prize itself or the prize donor, or both.

To ensure that brands and commercial organisations associated with competitions do not receive undue prominence, references to brands within competitions should be brief and secondary.

In practice, the following rules should be followed in order to achieve this:

  • As a general rule, any one competition or game show should have no more than two pairs of verbal/visual commercial references associated with it, in a programme part. However, advice should be sought from the content lawyer/compliance advisor on the cumulative effect of such references occurring in more than one part if that is intended.
  • References may be verbal and/or visual e.g. "To win a Nokia phone..." - the presenter or voiceover could say "Nokia" and also show the phone, with Nokia shown written on the phone. That would be one reference (i.e. one pair). Additionally, if relevant, the brand or logo of the prize donor may be referred to as well, e.g. "To win a Nokia phone courtesy of Vodafone..." - here "Nokia" could be mentioned verbally and the phone (containing the word Nokia) shown (one mention); and Vodafone could also be named as the donor verbally and a caption with the name "Vodafone" shown (a further one mention). This would add up to a total of two pairs of references, i.e., the maximum allowed within one programme part.
  • References should be kept factual and non-promotional, e.g. "To win a first-class trip to New York, courtesy of British Airways, answer the following..." (rather than: "To win a first-class trip to New York courtesy of the world's favourite airline, British Airways, answer the following..."). References to commercial products/services or organisations in connection with competitions should not sound or look like advertisements.
  • Visual references should be brief and not unduly prominent. As a general rule, a caption containing a brand name or logo should never occupy more than approximately 10% of the screen and should be on screen for no longer than 5–10 seconds.

See also: Quiz show guidelines and Commercial references.


Channel 4 has competition guidelines that set out detailed guidance and processes for the conduct of competitions, whether they are entered for free on the channels' websites or on social media. Similarly, all premium rate competitions are governed by detailed rules and guidance designed to ensure the integrity of processes involved. Please contact the Legal & Compliance team if you require a copy of either of these documents.


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