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BBC charities blame production teams for phone-in debacle

BBC charities blame production teams for phone-in debacle
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BBC charities blame production teams for phone-in debacle

Fundraising | Gemma Ware | 1 Jul 2007

BBC Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief have sought to distance themselves from the recent revelation that television producers had deceived viewers by using fake competition winners for viewer phone-ins.

But the Charity Commission is looking at the cases to see if it needs to take further action.

The charity appeals were part of a group of six television and radio shows that were found to have duped the public. The wrongdoings came to light after Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, ordered an inquiry after a trailer for a documentary wrongly implied the Queen had stormed out of a sitting with photographer Annie Leibovitz.

In the case of BBC Children in Need the competition was part of a live BBC Scotland broadcast that offered a location visit to the set of the children's programme Raven as a prize.

A spokeswoman for the charity said ten complaints had been received to date.  She added: "There was a communications breakdown between the call centre and the BBC Scotland programme-making team, followed by an error of editorial judgement on the part of the programme-makers, which led to a fictitious winner being read out on air. We would like to reassure our supporters that donations to Children in Need were not affected in any way.

"We hope that this indicates our supporters have understood the distinction between the BBC Scotland programming and the operations of the charity itself, which were not implicated in the findings of the BBC's initial report into breaches of editorial standards."

No one was available for interview from Comic Relief or Sport Relief, with communication staff directing Charity News Alert towards its website for a statement, which expressed the organisations' disappointment at the news.

"In both of the reported incidents relating to Comic Relief and Sport Relief, the BBC production teams were found to be at fault," said the statement. "Even though Comic Relief is being profiled in the current news agenda we hope that our supporters will continue to trust Comic Relief and understand that this story is about the internal workings of the BBC."

The Charity Commission said it was aware of the BBC's statement with regard to the charities and added:  "We are currently looking at the points that have been raised to determine if there is a role for the Charity Commission in relation to this."

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