Blue Peter says sorry for fake phone-in winner
Blue Peter made an on-air apology yesterday after becoming the latest programme to be caught up in the premium rate phone-ins row.
The children's show, which celebrates its 50th birthday next year, admitted that it faked the results of a charity telephone competition during a live programme last year.
Viewers had been invited to call a premium rate number and leave their details for a chance to win a toy. Nearly 14,000 calls were made.
However, a "technical failure" meant the show's producers were unable to get access to the names.
Rather than admit the problem, a member of staff asked a girl visiting the studio to pose as a winner and answer the question live on air.
Yesterday Konnie Huq, one of the programme's presenters, told viewers: "We'd like to say sorry to you because when this mistake happened, we let you down."
The admission will come as a further embarrassment for the corporation, which is already being investigated for irregularities during a phone-in for Saturday Kitchen.
Richard Deverell, the controller of BBC children's television, called it a "serious error of judgment".
"Whilst I am satisfied that there was no premeditated attempt to deceive or mislead viewers, the decision to put a child on air in this way was a serious error of judgment, and does not conform to either the BBC's own guidelines or the high standards we set ourselves in children's programmes," said Mr Deverell.
The BBC was unable to say yesterday whether it would be taking disciplinary action against the production team, led by editor Richard Marson.
Mr Marson said: "We are absolutely committed to running competitions that are fair to all entrants and we are very sorry for the way this competition was conducted."
According to Blue Peter, 13,862 people rang the competition phoneline on Nov 27, with 3.25p from each 10p call going to the programme's Unicef appeal. The rest went to the telephone services operator Telecom Express.
The BBC has set up a review of live competitions on Children's BBC and ordered "intensive staff training".
Using the details of children who had called the phoneline in November, it picked a new winner yesterday.
Telecom Express has given £381 to the appeal.
A free phone number -08000 565363 - has been set up for anyone who took part in the competition and has concerns.
The premium rate regulator Icstis confirmed that it had added Blue Peter to its long list of programmes being investigated over phone-ins.
On Tuesday, Channel 4 suspended competitions in its horseracing coverage.
Icstis is investigating six other shows, including Channel 4's Richard and Judy and ITV1's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.
Last week the broadcaster Five admitted "winning contestants" on its Brainteaser quiz were faked.
Source: The Telegraph