Pubcaster owes $100K after quizzer scam

LONDON — The BBC has been fined an unprecedented £50,000 ($100,000) for faking the winner of a phone-in competition on flagship children’s show “Blue Peter.”

Heavy fine, the third imposed on a web by regulators in the call-TV scandal that has hit British airwaves, is particularly embarrassing for the BBC, with its long-running kids show involved in the scam.

Communications regulator Ofcom accused the BBC of negligence as it imposed a $90,000 fine for using a studio guest to pose as the winner of a phone competition for a “Blue Peter” edition broadcast in November on BBC1. It imposed an extra $10,000 fine because the show was repeated on kids web CBBC.

Ofcom said the BBC, which prides itself on its reputation for integrity, had breached two broadcasting code rules.

The first states that “competitions should be conducted fairly,” while the other stipulates that broadcasters must look after the “physical and emotional welfare and the dignity” of children who take part in programs.

“It was of great concern,” ruled Ofcom, “whatever the motivation, the decision to put to air a fake winner resulted in a child audience being misled.”

The junior researcher responsible, added the regulator, had been “negligent.”

The BBC Trust, the pubcaster’s internal monitor, said the errors were “particularly serious” as they “resulted in children being misled to participate in a competition they had no chance of winning and in a child in the studio being involved in deceiving the audience.”

Praising BBC management’s swift response to the errors, the Trust added that “the culture of the BBC must be such that any proposal to mislead audiences is instantly dismissed as wholly inappropriate.”

Previously, Ofcom fined terrestrial web Five $600,000 for faking winners of the quizshow “Brainteaser.”

Last week, premium-rate phone service regulator Icstis fined call-TV provider Eckoh TV $300,000 for fixing Channel 4’s “Richard & Judy” show segment “You Say, We Pay” quiz (Daily Variety, July 9). Eckoh is planning an appeal.

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