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Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 21:15 GMT


Vanessa staff suspended over 'fake guests'

Vanessa: Taking the allegations "very seriously"

Two producers and a researcher on BBC One's Vanessa show have been sent home pending further inquiries into claims that the programme featured fake guests.

Media Correspondent Nick Higham: There have been a spate of hoaxes
According to a report in The Mirror newspaper, three women who appeared on the show were recruited by an entertainment agency working on commission from a BBC researcher.

The paper is promising further allegations in Friday's edition.

The alleged fakes include an unmarried actress claiming to be a battered wife and two strippers, who were unrelated, introduced on the show as sisters.

Media Correspondent Torin Douglas: Unclear how broadcasters can prevent this
The BBC said inquiries revealed that two agencies had been used to provide guests for the show, but there was "no question" of the programme being axed.

The corporation also said there would be a full review of research procedures across all relevant programmes for both in-house and independent productions.

It said: "The BBC has a contract of trust with its audience and they must be able to believe in the integrity of our programmes."

[ image: The Mirror: Promising further allegations]
The Mirror: Promising further allegations
Show presenter Vanessa Feltz has said she is "absolutely horrified" that her TV chat show had been accused of employing fake guests.

Speaking at the beginning of her chat show on Thursday morning Ms Feltz said: "I have to tell you that we are absolutely horrified by these allegations and we take the matter extremely seriously.

"We have already begun a full investigation and you can rest assured we will take any appropriate action."

According to the Mirror each of the alleged fake guests received about £75 for their appearance and the Cafe Absolute Entertainers Agency was paid £25 a guest.

BBC Radio 4's The World at One asks does it matter if chat show guests are fake?
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Chief Executive of BBC Production Matthew Bannister said: "There have been four incidents and that's four too many as far as I'm concerned.

"This is absolutely wrong... and it's not a practice that I have ever come across in 20 years of working at the BBC."

Mr Bannister denied that pressure was put on staff to break guidelines because of the intensely competitive market of daytime chat shows.

'Confessional' TV under attack

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One Anne Morrison, head of BBC Features, said: "We are conducting an investigation as a matter of urgency. We do take it extremely seriously ... it is very important there is a contract of trust with the viewer."

She said that every member of the Vanessa team was being spoken to and that disciplinary action - including sackings - could follow.

Ms Feltz signed a lucrative contract with the BBC last year after falling out with ITV.

But her daytime show has been under pressure from ITV rival Trisha Goddard.

Daytime confessional TV shows have been criticised in recent months. The Broadcasting Standards Commission said it was concerned over the current trend of what it called "victim entertainment" in its last annual report.

TV fakes a new trend?

The BSC singled out an incident in Ms Feltz's former ITV show when a woman was vilified on the programme for putting her son up for adoption.

The US Jerry Springer Show has also suffered from allegations that it recruited bogus guests and in the past few months two British documentaries have been shown to contains scenes that are false.

Carlton's faked documentary about a Colombian drug smugglers, The Connection, prompted a record fine of £2m by the Independent Television Commission.

Last week Channel 4 admitted that some scenes in its documentary Too Much Too Young: Chickens were also false.

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