Saturday, March 22, 2008

On Tuesday Blue Peter launched a new competition to find two children, aged six to twelve, to take part in the Olympics and Paralympics handover ceremonies in China. Zoe said "Now we do have a new Code of Conduct for all competitions and votes run by the BBC. Full details can be found on our website at - competitions and votes are never run to make money for the BBC."

The competition code of conduct follows last year's exposure of various competition incidents, some of which involved Blue Peter.

The first Blue Peter pretence, on 27th November 2006, occurred when there was a telephone call-handling system failure, and a girl visiting BBC Television Centre was handed a mobile phone and asked to pretend she had entered the competition. At the time he discovered the incident Blue Peter's editor is reported to have been furious, but 3 days later commended the staff member concerned for their initiative in keeping the programme on air. The deception came to light after someone emailed the BBC in March 2007 to say that they had seen what happened. Another 3,500 calls for the competition were received on the repeat broadcast the same evening because the notice indicating that it was closed was only displayed in small letters in contrast to the competition telephone number which was prominently displayed.

In May 2007 the BBC announced that Blue Peter's editor, Richard Marson, had "decided to step down" and been offered a role as an executive producer within the BBC Children's department working on independent projects. A visitor who saw the sham take place, Sally Eades, said on Panorama (23 April 2007): "I just found it extremely sad that the only mistake they made was not trusting the children enough to let them know something had gone wrong."

On 18 July 2007 Mark Thompson said that "not for personal gain, not for reasons of malice, but because of a misguided attempt it would appear in most cases to keep a programme on the air, or deal with a production issue, I'm afraid some of our colleagues have done things which are totally unacceptable."

Later Richard Marson was accused of fixing a Blue Peter web poll. Marson was given the push from the Corporation, despite some people involved believing that he had acted perfectly properly on the web poll issue. It's said he had been advised by technical specialists that there had been last minute vote stacking in favour of the name 'Cookie,' and colleagues believed he was the victim of a stitch-up job or a witch hunt.

A further Blue Peter incident was reported by a national newspaper in November 2007 - it related to a programme in 2005 when children entered a competition to put questions to Jon Culshaw. In response the BBC defended the actions taken, but said that the programme should have made it clear that only some of the children doing the interview came via the website (see blog 30 November 2007).

On 21 November 2007, the BBC published its new Code of Conduct for Competitions and Voting. It promises that competitions and votes are to be conducted in a way that is honest, open, fair and legal. In the case of entering a competition to put questions to a celebrity, such a competition could only be considered fair and honest if all the children had to overcome the same hurdles in order to win and put questions to the celebrity.

Grange Hill was recently voted best ever kids' show in a poll of five thousand 18-40 yr olds, which was reported widely. But the BBC Director-General has still not responded to my email about, amongst other things, Anne Gilchrist's false statements concerning CBBC feedback after her decision to axe Grange Hill.

BBC Values are printed on the reverse of all staff ID cards -

  • Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.
  • Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.
  • We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.
  • Creativity is the lifeblood of our organisation.
  • We respect each other and celebrate our diversity so that everyone can give their best.
  • We are one BBC: great things happen when we work together.

    I suggested to Newsround in an earlier blog (15 February 2008) that they might give some coverage to a couple of Youth Parliament conferences, one on gun and knife crime and the other on climate change. The UK youth parliament will soon choose its campaigns for 2008. Between 31st March and 7th April young people between the ages of 11 and 18 can vote for their choices from a list of around fourteen, and the final decision will be made at a youth parliamentarians' historic special meeting in the chamber of the House of Lords at the beginning of May.
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