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Rules for BBC phone-in contests to be tightened

Premium rate report reveals 'errors of judgement'

A BBC review of the premium rate phone-in scandal published today reveals serious errors of judgement by two programmes.

It criticises Blue Peter for ‘failures of editorial oversight’ and breaches of official guidelines.

Saturday Kitchen misled its viewers about the status of the show, which was pre-recorded rather than live.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson’s telephony report found no evidence of systemic abuse of the use of premium-rate phone lines nor of the BBC profiting from any of the shows involved.

But it criticises a number of: ‘… serious errors and breaches of regulations in relation to the ways that telephony has been used in a small number of cases.’

The report said the BBC had: ‘… fallen seriously short of what the public should rightly expect from it.’

A Blue Peter show last year misled children into taking part in a competition they had no chance of winning.

Fake competitor

A visiting child posed as fake competitor in a phone-in competition after a technical problem meant callers could not get through.

At a production meeting three days later the researcher responsible for bringing in the child was congratulated for her ‘quick thinking’ in keeping the show on the road, the report says.

Saturday Kitchen misled viewers into thinking they were calling a live TV show.

Ambiguous scripting meant viewers could have been misled about the status of the pre-recorded shows in two or three cases.

Mr Thompson’s report was published today by the BBC Trust – the BBC’s independent governing body.

It sets out a raft of measures to tighten up the use of premium-rate phone lines across the organisation.

Raft of measures

Mr Thompson said: ‘Whilst it (the report) reveals serious errors of judgement by two BBC programmes, its scrutiny of the use of premium-rate telephony by more than 200 BBC programmes found no evidence of systemic abuse or failure.’

BBC One controller Peter Fincham will lead a pan-BBC working party’s review of the BBC’s use of telephony and implement any necessary changes.

All ‘live’ telephone competitions where a winner is selected within a half-hour show have been suspended.

Senior editorial staff on all shows using premium-rate services will be responsible for ensuring guidelines are met.

Further guidance and training will be provided across the BBC.

The BBC Trust is carrying out a longer-term policy review of how and when the BBC uses premium-rate phone lines.

Grave mistakes

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons today said the Blue Peter errors were particularly serious.

‘These grave mistakes were compounded by serious errors of judgement in not referring the matter to senior management,’ he said.

The report cleared the children’s show Smile of any problems with phone-ins.

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