BBC suspends phone-in competitionsMove follows discovery of more fake winners

19 July 2007

A remote control pointed at a television screen.

The BBC has suspended phone competitions across all its TV and radio stations after it uncovered more instances of staff ringing in and pretending to be viewers.

The breaches were revealed by BBC Director-General Mark Thompson following a search of around one million hours of programming aired since January 2005.

Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children in Need are three of the shows embroiled in this latest scandal.

On each occasion, the ‘winning caller’ was actually a member of the production team posing as a viewer.

Editorial training

Interactive and online competitions will also be taken down as soon as possible and the BBC is to implement an ‘unprecedented programme of editorial training focussing on the issue of honesty with audiences.’

Mark Thompson said: ‘Nothing matters more than trust and fair dealing with our audiences. The vast majority of the 400,000 hours of BBC output each year, on television, radio and online, is accurate, fair and complies with our stringent editorial standards.

‘However, a number of programmes have failed to meet these high standards. This is totally unacceptable. It is right that we are open with the public when we have fallen short and that we demonstrate that we take this very seriously indeed.

‘The behaviour of a small number of production staff who have passed themselves off as viewers and listeners must stop. We must now swiftly put our house in order.’

Blue Peter

Broadcast regulator Ofcom recently fined the BBC £50,000 after it emerged Blue Peter persuaded a child to pose as a competition winner.

The other programmes now found to have breached standards include BBC1's Sports Relief in July 2006, Comic Relief in March 2007, BBC1 Scotland's Children In Need in November 2005, children's programme TMi on CBBC and BBC2 in September 2006, BBC 6 Music's Liz Kershaw Show in 2006 and the World Service's White Label show in April 2006.

The Director-General said it was possible further historical incidents could emerge and that a number of other competitions were found to have been poorly organised and breached guidelines.

The BBC is also to commission a full and independent inquiry into a trailer for the documentary ‘A Year With The Queen’.

The trailer, made by TV company RDF, gave the false impression that the Queen had stormed out of a photo shoot with photographer Annie Leibovitz.

The report will be submitted to the BBC Trust in the autumn and the BBC will not commission any new programmes from RDF until it has the inquiry findings.