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Can You Still Trust Your National TV? July 20, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Essays, News.

Every country has a right to expect its national broadcaster to maintain rigorous levels of integrity. Every time you think a national broadcaster has sunk lower, a new breach in viewers’ trust hits the headlines.

The BBC admitted Wednesday that a series of flagship children’s and charity phone-in programs had deliberately deceived viewers. The moral rectitude revealed in the Beeb’s deception is an issue not only for the British broadcasting icon, but national broadcasters in general and Asia in particular.

Hit your remote. Deceit come in many guises over the airwaves where authority lies in the hands of the few. Look around and you see editorial failings; slants endorsing pay and political masters.

Look around and you see manufactured non-news; advertorials couched as content; sponsored lifestyle programs pimped by moonlighting news readers; product placements and commercial puff.

We’re talking stitched-up productions, stretched-out crews and big pay-offs. The only surprise is that it took this long. Auntie – the moniker for the once honored and trusted broadcaster, is now seen as a bunch of ‘crooks and liars’.

BBC production staff lied to the audience by posing as winners of phone quizzes (never mind that practices like this is a criminal offence). The programs identified are:

Comic Relief – Friday 16 March 2007 on BBC One
A caller was heard on air answering a question to win prizes belonging to a famous couple when in fact the caller was a member of the production team.

TMi – 16 September 2006 on BBC Two and CBBC
A member of the production team posed as a member of the audience who had won a competition which was open to the public.

Sport Relief – 15 July 2006 on BBC One
Viewers were led to believe that a member of the public had won a competition open to the public when it was a member of the crew.

Children in Need – 18 November 2005 on BBC One Scotland
A fictitious competition winner was announced during a segment called Raven: The Island following technical problems.

The Liz Kershaw Show – 2005/6 on BBC 6 Music
During pre-recorded programmes presented as live, listeners were led to believe genuine competitions were held when in fact there were no contests or prizes and all callers were production staff or their friends.

White Label – World Service until April 2006
On more than once occasion a fake winner was announced when no winning entries had been received.

The same day, media regulator Ofcom published a damning inquiry into recent phone-in scandals and concluded there is a “systemic failure” in the way broadcasters operate premium rate lines. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.

“If broadcasters want audiences to go on spending millions calling in, they need to show they take consumer protection as seriously as programme content,” said former Deputy Chief Executive of BBC News Richard Ayre, who led the inquiry.

Ofcom accused telecoms operators, producers and broadcasters of a lack of transparency. It said there was a need for clearer pricing schemes, fairer competitions, and greater external auditing. The investigation looked at 20 alleged phone-in quiz scandals involving networks.

Related: What A Month For The BBC’s Reputation For Excellence.



1. We Get the Web We Deserve « Webs@Work - July 24, 2007

[…] His polemic goes something like this – people on the Web, thou shalt not criticize the gatekeepers of institutions such as the Beeb, the NY Times, Le Monde, etc. because they are professionals. But after the Beeb phone-in fakes, can we trust the gatekeepers? See my post, Can You Still Trust Your National TV? […]

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