July 30, 2008

BBC Fined $800K for Unfair Phone-INS

The British media regulator Ofcom says it has fined the BBC $800,000 for unfair practices used in call-in contests on several of its TV and radio shows.

The BBC deceived its audience by faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly, Ofcom said. In some cases, the production team had taken premeditated decisions to broadcast competitions and encourage listeners to enter in the full knowledge that the audience stood no chance of winning. In other cases, programs faced with technical problems made up the names of winners. Overall, Ofcom found that the BBC failed to have adequate management oversight of its compliance and training procedures to ensure that the audience was not misled.

The BBC said in a statement it has accepted Ofcom's findings and taken measures to ensure like incidents do not happen again.

Among the shows caught up in the scandal were Comic Relief, Sport Relief, Children in Need, TMi, Liz Kershaw Show, Jo Whiley Show, Russell Brand and Clare McDonnell Show.

Ofcom has recognized that neither the BBC nor any member of staff made any money from these serious editorial lapses. Whilst we must never be complacent and must remain constantly vigilant, audience research suggests the comprehensive action we have taken is rebuilding the trust of viewers and listeners, the BBC said.