The BBC has been rapped by Ofcom over a Comic Relief competition in which children who applied to meet pop band McFly had no chance of winning.
Regional BBC show North West Tonight offered a prize of McFly performing at a primary school.
The contest in February 2007 was open to schools in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and other parts of the North West.
But a day before the competition closed, the BBC discovered that the band could only visit a school within Greater Manchester due to their tight schedule.
The corporation did not inform the entrants and instead secretly excluded schools from other areas.
In the ruling, media regulator Ofcom found the BBC to be in breach of the broadcasting code which states that competitions should be conducted fairly.
The contest ‘was unfair to those viewers who entered… on the basis that they had a fair and equal chance of winning it when, in fact, due to the location of their school, they had no chance of winning.
‘Ofcom considers that the BBC should have made it clear to its viewers before the competition was closed that it was not going to be possible to honour the original terms and conditions of the competition.’
There was ‘limited harm to viewers’ because entry was free via email, the regulator noted.
The BBC admitted failing to inform viewers of the rule change and issued an apology.
A spokesman said: ‘North West Tonight launched this competition in good faith for all its viewers. We later discovered that McFly’s schedule meant they could only visit a school within the Greater Manchester area.
‘We should have told viewers that we had changed the rules, but we didn’t. We would like to apologise to all our viewers for this error.’
The competition was won by Manor Green Primary School in Denton, Greater Manchester.
The Ofcom ruling follows a string of revelations about viewer deception in BBC competitions and is not the first to involve Comic Relief.
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