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More scandal hits the BBC

Network suspends all contests after review

LONDON — The BBC suspended all phone-in competitions on Wednesday as topper Mark Thompson admitted that more “serious editorial breaches” had emerged following regulator Ofcom’s imposition last week of a $100,000 fine for faking a phone-in quiz winner on kids’ skein “Blue Peter.”

An internal review has revealed that phone-ins on BBC1’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 BBC6 Music and CBBC program “TMi” all failed to meet editorial standards.

The fact that some of the fakery involves charity phone-ins is especially embarrassing for the BBC.

Several editorial managers have been suspended, and the pubcaster’s external monitor, the BBC Trust, warned execs that it was “deeply concerned that significant failures of control and compliance” have taken place.

These include other incidents such as doctoring a documentary to make it appear Queen Elizabeth II had stormed out of a photo session with celebrity photog Annie Leibovitz.

The pubcaster said it will not commission programs from RDF Media, producer of the documentary, pending the results of an inquiry into the incident. RDF Media has accepted responsibility for the mistake and apologized to the BBC.

Thompson told employees that he intends to take a “zero tolerance” attitude to “any future lapses.”

Embarrassingly for an organization that prides itself on its international reputation for integrity, the BBC will organize editorial training focusing “on the issue of honesty with audiences” for its 16,500 program and content staff.

Meanwhile, Ofcom has accused TV channels operating premium line services of a “systemic failure.”

Announcing the results of an inquiry into premium-line phone services on all U.K. terrestrial channels, the watchdog warned that broadcasters were “in denial” about their responsibilities to audiences.

Financial motives were the driving motive, said the inquiry headed by Ofcom content board member Richard Ayre, a former BBC news topper.

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