[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
BBC suspends phone competitions
Comic Relief
A crew member posed as a winner on Comic Relief in March
The BBC has suspended all competitions after an inquiry unearthed a fresh batch of faked phone-ins.

Serious editorial breaches were found in six shows, including Comic Relief. Director general Mark Thompson said the incidents were "totally unacceptable".

Mr Thompson has outlined a "zero tolerance" approach to any future lapses in editorial judgement.

He also ordered an independent inquiry into footage that wrongly implied the Queen walked out of a photo session.

All phone-related competitions on BBC TV and radio ceased from midnight on Wednesday, while interactive and online competitions will be taken down as soon as possible.

Mark Thompson
Director general Mark Thompson said he would not resign

Asked about refunds for callers to the faked competitions, Mr Thompson told BBC News 24: "If there is a way of recompensing then we will do it."

The BBC Trust said it was "deeply concerned that significant failures of control and compliance within the BBC have compromised the BBC's values of accuracy and honesty".

'No excuse'

BBC One's Sports Relief in July 2006, Comic Relief in March 2007, Children In Need on BBC Scotland in November 2005, The Liz Kershaw Show on BBC 6 Music and CBBC programme TMi were all found to have breached editorial standards.

Mr Thompson said: "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," he added.

"There is no excuse for deception. I know the idea of deceiving the public would simply never occur to most people in the BBC.

All competitions suspended
All staff to be trained on safeguarding trust
Independent inquiry into the Queen documentary
Commissioning from the Queen documentary production company RDF "paused"
Some editorial leaders asked to "stand back" from their duties
Contracts with staff and suppliers revised to emphasise editorial standards
Promotional materials must meet the same standards

"If you have a choice between deception and a programme going off air, let the programme go. It is far better to accept a production problem and make a clean breast to the public than to deceive," he added.

The Trust, the BBC's governing body, said: "The public has a right to expect the BBC to set the standards for editorial integrity in broadcasting and expect those in charge of the Corporation to protect the reputation of their public institution."

It added that Mr Thompson's report highlighted "further deeply disappointing evidence of insufficient understanding amongst certain staff of the standards of accuracy and honesty expected."

"We have made clear that we regard any deception or breach of faith with our audiences as being utterly unacceptable."

Other measures outlined in Mr Thompson's action plan include mandatory training for 16,500 staff.

But he denied that the issue of resignation had arisen at his meeting with the BBC Trust.

Blue Peter logo
The BBC was fined 50,000 for a faked winner on Blue Peter
He also told BBC News 24 no offers of resignation had been received by him, nor had he sought any.

He said: "We are all utterly determined to do everything we can to fix this problem."

He has also called for a workshop involving other broadcasters to discuss issues surrounding editorial standards and training.

'In denial'

ITV's executive chairman Michael Grade, himself a former chairman of the BBC, told Newsnight that there was an "epidemic" which affected every broadcaster in the UK.

He said: "It's partly to do with casualisation of the industry, people on short-term contracts under tremendous strain, tremendous pressure. Competitive pressure is enormous."

Earlier on Wednesday, a report by media regulator Ofcom said there had been a "systemic failure" in the way TV channels had run premium rate phone services.

An inquiry found that broadcasters were "in denial" about their responsibilities to viewers and saw phone-ins as a way to generate revenue.

Last week Ofcom fined the BBC 50,000 after the children's programme Blue Peter falsified the results of a phone-in competition during a live show.

The BBC also had to apologise over the clips from a documentary about the Royal Family that implied the Queen had walked out of a portrait session with a photographer.

The programme's makers, RDF Media, subsequently admitted that it was "guilty of a serious error of judgement".

BBC director general on the editorial breaches


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific