BBC suspends key staff

Faked contests come home to roost

The BBC has suspended a number of senior editorial staff following admissions that phone competitions in fund-raising shows such as “Comic Relief” were rigged.

Staffers were asked to leave their desks Thursday. The pubcaster declined to provide the names of those suspended or say how many people are involved, but up to 10 employees may be affected.

Move follows Wednesday’s admission by the BBC that competitions had been faked in six shows. It’s likely more instances will come to light in the next few days.

ITV topper Michael Grade, the former BBC chairman, described the phone-in problem as “an epidemic.”

Interviewed about the controversy on BBC Radio, BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons signaled that director general Mark Thompson has a year to improve editorial standards — or he could be pinkslipped.

Asked if the BBC Trust, which replaced the BBC’s board of governors in January, had the power to fire execs, he said: “We certainly have the power to appoint the chairman of the executive of the board, who is the director general.”

As the BBC battled to make its case heard amid damning newspaper headlines in Blighty, the stock price of RDF Media plunged by more than 10%.

It was an RDF documentary for the BBC containing faked footage of Queen Elizabeth II that triggered the BBC’s internal review revealing the phone-in malpractice.

The BBC has said it will not commission any more shows from RDF until an inquiry into the faked royal footage is completed.

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