Saturday, May 10, 2008

The day after disclosures about ITV wrongdoing at the 2005 British Comedy Awards, further irregularities were reported, this time at the BBC. As Jake put it on BBC1's Newsround: "Today we found out that the BBC accidentally kept cash raised through phone calls that should have gone to charity."

£106,00 from phone voting which should have gone to charity had been retained by Audiocall. Separately, in one programme last year a large volume of calls came in when the lines were not open. The sums due to charity have now been repaid with interest, and the BBC said it "would like to apologise to viewers and to the charities for this serious error." The timing of this disclosure and apology, coming as it does in the wake of ITV's rebuke by Ofcom, may not be a coincidence. Similar perhaps to the timing of ITV's own disclosure of the 2005 Comedy Awards cheating, announced as it was the same day as Ofcom's rebuke.

The press release on Friday points to reports by Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Ronald Neil, which, the BBC says, both "praise the BBC for the tough steps it has taken in this area since last summer." The BBC goes on to refer to its "unprecedented" Safeguarding Trust course which, it says, has been completed by 19,500* staff, and its new Code of Conduct for the use of premium rate telephony. However I'm still not clear where the BBC stands when it comes down to cheating the public on free or standard rate telephony, as opposed to premium rate telephony. I mean what about the fourteen and fifteen year old kids who had their feedback to Newsround discarded just on account of their age? And what about those kids who wish to discuss LGBT issues, but have their views discarded because of pure and simple prejudice?

The BBC says "throughout our response to the discovery that some BBC programmes had fallen short of our high standards we have consistently disclosed all instances and outlined to the public the action we are taking to put things right." In fact the BBC has not acknowledged that it was at fault when it discriminated against 14 and 15 year old children.

"We do not take that trust for granted," says the BBC, "the public can be reassured that all BBC staff are working very hard indeed to be vigilant and to aspire to the highest standards in our industry."

The Director-General's office has still not answered my questions about the falsehood put out by Anne Gilchrist relating to feedback on the axing of Grange Hill.

*Note - Previously the BBC said 16,500 programmes and content staff will attend a new mandatory training programme, Safeguarding Trust.

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