Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

BBC NI pulls phone-in competitions

BBC Northern Ireland bosses today suspended phone-in competitions on a host of radio programmes.

The move was part of a UK-wide suspension of all phone-in competitions after it emerged licence-fee payers had been deceived when six of the corporation's top shows were rigged.

Radio Ulster programmes including the Alan Simpson Show, Across The Line and the Saturday Magazine Programme, which host regular competitions have all been affected. Other radio programmes have been forced to cancel one-off competitions they have lined up.

None of the locally produced television programmes include phone-in competitions.

A spokeswoman for BBC Northern Ireland said: "All phone-in competitions have been suspended across the BBC. Locally this applies to some small scale competitions across radio on our music and talk shows. These competitions will not resume across the BBC until we are confident that they will be run properly."

At present the suspension does not relate to phone-voting which is being allowed to continue under review.

Yesterday there was widespread public outrage at the phone-in scandal with trusted charity fund-raisers like Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief among those blacklisted.

Recently the BBC was forced to pay a hefty £50,000 fine over the Blue Peter phone-in scam.

The broadcaster was found guilty of the pre-planned "deception" by faking a competition winner and the shows presenters, including Bangor girl Zoe Salmon, later apologised on air.

The national suspension came into force after BBC director general Mark Thompson ordered an internal investigation in the wake of the Royal row over a BBC1 trailer which wrongly implied the Queen had stormed out of a sitting with photographer Annie Leibovitz.

He presented his findings in a meeting with the BBC Trust which demanded an explanation over the Royal fiasco.

The trust called the editorial breaches "deeply disappointing" and ordered an inquiry.

Mr Thompson repeatedly dodged questions about whether he or any other senior BBC executives should resign.

He insisted the mistakes were not made out of personal gain or intended malice, but occurred mainly as a result of technical hitches.

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