Beeb fined over Brand phone-in

Fakery costs BBC £400,000

Broadcasting watchdogs have fined the BBC £400,000 over phone-in scandals involving Comic Relief, the Russell Brand show and others.

This fine is the highest financial penalty to be imposed by Ofcom against the corporation.

BBC 6Music’s Liz Kershaw Show received the biggest fine of £115,000 for repeatedly asking listeners to call in to competitions, even though the show was pre-recorded.

The station was fined another £17,500 for a similar incident on Brand’s show in April 2006, when a competition winner had been faked. The BBC declined to reveal whether Brand knew the rules had been broken.

The BBC was fined another £45,000 following a faked call on Comic Relief in March 2007. Viewers calling in to make donations were told they could win prizes which belonged to a famous couple; but the winner was a member of the production team, not a genuine viewer.

Other fines were for: Sport Relief, £45,000; Children in Need, £35,000; TMi, £50,000; Radio 1’s Jo Whiley Show £75,000, 6Music’s Clare McDonnell Show, £17,500

Ofcom said: These breaches of the Code were very serious. In each of these cases the BBC deceived its audience by faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly.

‘The investigations found that in some cases, the production team had taken pre-mediated decisions to broadcast competitions and encourage listeners to enter in the full knowledge that the audience stood no chance of winning. In other cases, programmes faced with technical problems, made up the names of winners.

Although viewers and listeners paid the cost of their calls to take part in these competitions, the BBC did not receive any money from the entries.

The BBC Trust said it was disappointed that it would have to diver licence money to pay the fine as it had already taken its own action to stop repeats of such scandals.

In a statement, it said: 'Ofcom's decisions today relate to cases considered by the BBC Trust in 2007 which led to remedial action by the BBC and significant changes in the way the BBC complies competitions and programmes.

'The Trust regrets that these serious breaches by the BBC have led to a financial penalty being applied by Ofcom and the loss of licence fee payers' money as a result.'

Meanwhile, MTV is apparently getting nervous about Brand hosing the Music Video Awards in Los Angeles in September.

He said: ‘I’ve been warned when I'm presenting there are two things I am never allowed to say. One: cunt. And two: Scientology.

‘There is one sentence that could join both of those words but I'm going to try to not say it.’

Published: 30 Jul 2008

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