BBC orders "immediate" suspension of phone-in competitions

The BBC has ordered an immediate suspension of all phone ins and interactive competitions across TV and radio after a corporation-wide search found a raft of “serious breaches”. The BBC Trust says that breaches of editorial standards had been reported on shows including Comic Relief, Sports Relief and Children in Need.

It says further information is “emerging” about editorial breaches linked to numerous phone-in and interactive competitions following a search of around one million hours of output since January 2005. Director general Mark Thompson reported findings to the Trust, the BBC’s governing body, which has backed his call to suspend such competitions.

The measures include a total suspension of all competitions. Phone-related competitions on BBC television and radio will cease at midnight tonight (Wednesday), and interactive and online competitions will be taken down as soon as possible.

All 16,500 programmes and content staff will attend a new mandatory training programme, Safeguarding Trust, from the autumn.

Thompson says: “Nothing matters more than trust and fair dealing with our audiences.” He says it is “totally unacceptable” that programmes have failed to meet the BBC’s “high standards”.

Other measures the corporation will take to tackle the problem include revising contracts for staff and suppliers and ensuring that promotional materials meet the same expected standards for programming.

A programme of action announced in May following concerns over the use of premium rate telephony at the BBC will continue. The broadcaster will also invite UK broadcasters to attend a joint workshop looking at training and editorial standards across the industry, although it says in a statement: “Our first priority will remain putting our own house in order.”

The proposals follow a damning report issued by media regulator Ofcom into the “systematic failure” by broadcasters using premium rate telecoms services in television programmes.

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