News comes as BBC prepares to have charter renewed

HOLLYWOOD — The BBC is investigating a hoax perpetrated on the pubcaster by a man pretending to be a spokesman for Dow Chemical.

The Beeb apologized for airing a report that Dow was accepting responsibility for the leakage of toxic chemicals 20 years ago in Bhopal, India, and setting up a compensation fund of $12 billion for victims and survivors.

The report on BBC World and BBC News 24, which was carried on other of the pubcaster’s outlets, was based on an on-air interview with one Jude Finisterra, who claimed to be a Dow spokesman.

“This interview was inaccurate, part of an elaborate deception,” the Beeb said in a statement that also ran on its Web site. “The person did not represent the company and we want to make it clear that the information he gave was entirely inaccurate.”

The 1984 incident occurred when toxic fumes from at a plant run by Union Carbide killed 10,000 and injured several thousands. The plant was later bought by Dow.

Dow Chemical spokeswoman Marina Ashanin told BBC World from Switzerland: “Dow confirms there was no basis whatsoever for this report.

“We also confirm Jude Finisterra is neither an employee nor a spokesperson for Dow.”

The news comes as the BBC prepares to have its charter renewed, an event that occurs every 10 years.

Already this year, management has been shaken up after a battle with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government over his decision to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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