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BBC fined 95,000 for "audience deception" news
19 December 2008

Venerable UK institution, the BBC, was fined 95,000 yesterday over fake phone-in competitions. The Corporation conducted "live" phone-in competitions in what were actually pre-recorded radio shows. This ensured that listeners had no chance of winning.

The Corporation has been fined 70,000 for eight editions of X Factor star Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show between June and December 2006. It has also been revealed that friends of friends of the producers twice won the prize on offer.

The BBC has also been fined 25,000 for five editions of Tony Blackburn's show aired between December 2005 and December 2006 on BBC London.

An Office of Communications (Ofcom) statement lambasted executives who, it said, knew of the breaches by the middle of last year and yet thought them not serious enough to be dealt with immediately. Ofcom said: "It was a matter of significant concern that at the time of the 'trawls', the BBC considered the breaches to be of a 'less serious' nature than it now accepted."

The Office of Communications is an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

Ofcom added: "The BBC invited listeners to enter the competitions in full knowledge the audience stood no chance of entering or winning."

Neither competition was run for profit.

The Corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, admitted that the breaches were serious and involved "audience deception".

It is required that the BBC broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings and a BBC Trust-worded apology on both Radio 2 and BBC London 94.9FM.

The fines are just the latest in a series of scandals in which UK broadcasters have misled the public. ITV was fined a record 5.67million in May for the abuse of premium rate lines on shows. Three months later Ofcom fined the BBC 400,000 for fooling viewers in flagship shows such as Comic Relief and Sport Relief.

BBC management said: "We accept the BBC Trust's and Ofcom's findings." It also said that staff would now be trained better.

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BBC fined 95,000 for "audience deception"