BBC suspends all phone-in competitions

The BBC has suspended all phone-related and interactive competitions following recent deceptions, which they now admit involved Comic Relief and Children In Need.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson is to announce a ‘far-reaching’ action plan that will take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any future lapses.

Children In Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief are the latest BBC operations to mislead the public. The main problems announced on Wednesday after a major BBC audit were:

Comic Relief 2007

Viewers were invited to donate money believing they could win prizes belonging to a famous couple. Two callers were incorrect before a third answered successfully – this was a member of the production team.

Sport Relief 2006

Viewers were led to believe a member of the public won a competition, but the caller was a member of the production team.

Children In Need 2005

In a BBC Scotland broadcast viewers were led to believe a competition had been won by a viewer, but due to a technical mistake calls from the public didn’t get through and a fictitious name was read out.

The Liz Kershaw Show, 6 Music 2005/6

These prerecorded shows, presented as live, featured competitions in which all callers were members of the production team and their friends.

As well, Thompson has paused commissioning programmes from major production company RDF Media, which was responsible for misleading the public into believing the Queen had walked out of a recent photoshoot.

It will resume commissioning RDF after an inquiry makes it clear there is no chance of a repetition of the incident.

Thompson said some BBC editorial leaders will ‘be asked to stand back from their duties’ pending reviews of why it took so long to spot these problems.

Thompson’s statement said the BBC intended to invite ITV, Channel 4, Five and all other leading UK broadcasters to join us in a workshop focusing on training and editorial standards across the industry.

“Our first priority will remain putting our own house in order.”

Thompson told BBC staff last week that honesty and accuracy were paramount. “We cannot allow even a small number of lapses, whether intentional or as a result of sloppiness, to undermine our reputation and the confidence of the public,’ he said.

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