Fictitious telephone number

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Ranges for fictitious telephone numbers are common in most telephone numbering plans. One of the main reasons these ranges exist is to avoid accidentally using real phone numbers in movies and television programs because viewers frequently call the numbers used.

Tommy Tutone's hit 1982 song "867-5309/Jenny" identifies a working number in many area codes which continue to receive large numbers of misdialled calls asking for "Jenny" decades later.[1] In 1992, filmmaker Michael Moore unwittingly included footage of himself reciting his telephone number in the documentary Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint. He received 314 phone calls in just the first day following its broadcast on PBS.[2]

In the 1985 film "Girls Just Want To Have Fun", as the contestants and crowd are all leaving the auditions, Drew calls out to Lynne "Hey, what's the flying nun's phone number", to which Janey replies "It's unlisted!". Lynne interjects, however, calling out "555-4102". [3] [4]

The makers of 2003 film Bruce Almighty used 776-2323 which remains unassigned in 1-716 Buffalo (where the film is set). 776 is not a fictitious exchange in other area codes, where subscribers with the matching number were inundated with callers asking for "God". In Colorado the calls were misdirected to KDMN radio; in Sanford, North Carolina the number belongs to a church. 776-2323 was ultimately replaced with a 555 number for television airings of the movie and on most copies of the DVD.[5] In 2014, Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolev received over two thousand text messages in a few days after printing mobile telephone +7-9250222285 on a helmet worn during the Sochi Olympics.[6]

By country[edit]

Australia[edit]

Per the ACMA web page - Fictitious numbers for radio, books, film & TV, version 21 October 2009:[7] >

  • Premium rates
    • 1900 654 321
  • Geographic ranges
    • Central East Area Code Region (covering NSW and ACT): (02) 5550 xxxx & (02) 7010 xxxx
    • South East Area Code Region (covering VIC and TAS): (03) 5550 xxxx & (03) 7010 xxxx
    • North East Area Code Region (covering QLD): (07) 5550 xxxx & (07) 7010 xxxx
    • Central and West Area Region Code (covering SA, WA and NT): (08) 5550 xxxx & (08) 7010 xxxx
  • Mobile
    • 0491 570 156
    • 0491 570 157
    • 0491 570 158
    • 0491 570 159
    • 0491 570 110
  • Freephone and local rate
    • 1800 160 401
    • 1800 975 707
    • 1800 975 708
    • 1800 975 709
    • 1800 975 710
    • 1800 975 711
    • 1300 975 707
    • 1300 975 708
    • 1300 975 709
    • 1300 975 710
    • 1300 975 711
Further information: Telephone numbers in Australia

Republic of Ireland[edit]

Phone numbers of the format 020-91X-XXXX are reserved for filming and drama use by ComReg.[8]

North American Numbering Plan[edit]

The exchange prefix 555 in the North American Numbering Plan is reserved for Directory Assistance and information numbers. As these are not issued as standard business or residence lines, the use of a 555 number in fiction is almost universal. Only the 555-01xx range is officially reserved, though numbers outside this range are commonly used.

The reservation applies to all North American Numbering Plan area codes. 555 or a variant remains potentially valid outside North America; New Zealand uses mobile *555 to report traffic collisions.[9]

In North America, exchanges 958 and 959 are normally reserved for local and long distance test numbers (such as automatic number announcement circuits). A rare few areas (such as area code 204 in Manitoba) reserve 959 only. 950-xxxx are reserved as local access numbers for feature group 'B' alternate long distance carriers. Local or adjacent domestic area codes are normally also avoided as exchange prefixes (so +1-212-718-1234 in New York City could only be fictional). These are not as well known and do not often appear in fiction. These reservations do not apply outside North America.

Early Bell System publications which needed to illustrate a telephone with a number displayed on it commonly used 311 555-2368, and for multi-button phones, -2369, -2370, -2371, etc. This number appeared in Bell advertisements as recently as 1978.[10] These numbers were also common in films and television; Jim Rockford's phone number in the US detective television series The Rockford Files was 311-555-2368, as was one of Jaime Sommers private numbers in The Bionic Woman;[11] as a seven-digit call, 555-2368 reaches Ghostbusters.[12] The number (if dialled as a ten-digit local call in large cities) now reaches 3-1-1 (city hall), but it occasionally continues to appear in documentation as a fictional number.[13]

Recently Universal Studios acquired the phone number (212) 664-7665 for use in films to avoid the 555 prefix. It has been used in the films Munich, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Adjustment Bureau, and Definitely, Maybe.[14] Fictional Telecom has reserved voice over IP numbers in the 206 (Seattle), 323 (Los Angeles), 415 (San Francisco), and 646 (New York) area codes for use in films, TV and radio dramas.[15] Occasionally, a real number serves as an Easter egg as the publisher directs a number they own to a promotional message, a contest line or other content which ties in to the original programme.

Phone numbers whose exchanges begin with 1 are also occasionally used as fictional numbers. Under the North American Numbering Plan, all telephone exchanges run from 200 to 999 with similar restrictions on telephone area codes. Like the reservation on area codes with '9' as the middle area code digit, the restrictions on '0' and '1' are intended to facilitate a possible future expansion which would lengthen all North American numbers by one or more digits.

Another one is "777-9311" by The Time; it was Dez Dickerson's actual telephone number at the time the song was written, causing his phone to ring off the hook until he had his number changed.

United Kingdom[edit]

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) has reserved[16][17] blocks of numbers in most major areas for use in TV and radio dramas. Fictitious numbers in (011x) and (01x1) area codes mostly end with the digits 496 0xxx, however Tyneside uses (0191) 498 0xxx. London uses 020 7946 0xxx; Cardiff uses 029 2018 0xxx; and Belfast uses 028 9018 0xxx. The generic (and currently unused) area code 01632 is available for all other purposes. Ofcom also reserves blocks of mobile phone (07700 900xxx), freephone (0808 157 0xxx), and premium rate (0909 879 0xxx) numbers for drama use. They also recently added a UK-wide range to the list (0306 999 0xxx).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jenny, are you there? (867-5309)". Danstheman.com. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  2. ^ Schultz, Emily (2006). Michael Moore: A Biography, ECW Press, p. 96.
  3. ^ http://home.earthlink.net/~mthyen/4000.html
  4. ^ http://bethbwilson.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/all-time-favorite-movie-quotes.html
  5. ^ Mark Caro (March 29, 2011). "Hold the phone — that fake number works". Chicago Tribune. 
  6. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/winterolympics/article-2554706/SOCHI-2014-Call-anytime-Bored-Russian-snowboarder-Alexey-Sobolev-receives-2-000-messages-putting-phone-number-helmet.html
  7. ^ Fictitious Phone Numbers [1] ACMA Web Page
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ "How do I report an incident of bad driving?". New Zealand Police. 
  10. ^ Bell of Pennsylvania (April 1, 1978). "Reading area Bell telephone customers: Calling long distance?" (advertisement). Reading Eagle. p. 3. 
  11. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=IRog-mvSMR8C&pg=PA30.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Commercial advertisement (video) for Ghostbusters at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtyNeMazZY8
  13. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=AYAjb7Y9HfMC&pg=PT147.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Mark Caro (March 29, 2011). "Hold the phone — that fake number works". Chicago Tribune. 
  15. ^ "Fictional Telecom - Numbers for drama, tv, and radio". 
  16. ^ Oftel (1999-06-01). "Numbers Used For Drama. ca. 1999". Oftel Numbering Bulletin 38. Office of Telecommunications. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  17. ^ Ofcom (2004-10-26). "Telephone Numbers for drama purposes (TV, Radio etc) revised 2004". Office of Communications. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 

External links[edit]