Belfast Telegraph

Former editor of 'Blue Peter' is sacked by BBC

By Ciar Byrne

The former editor of Blue Peter has been sacked by the BBC as part of a wide-ranging attempt to restore viewers' trust after a series of scandals over deception on television and radio.

Richard Marson, who left the show in May but was working as an executive producer in the BBC Children's department, was editor in January when viewers were asked to vote in an online poll for the name of the new Blue Peter kitten. Cookie was the name that came out top but the production team deemed this was not appropriate for a children's show and decided on Socks instead.

Blue Peter will be forced to broadcast an apology in the first programme of its new series on 25 September. A new kitten, called Cookie, will also be introduced to the show.

Mr Marson was also the editor when a child studio guest was asked to step in and pose as a competition winner after a technical error. Ofcom fined Blue Peter £50,000 over the incident.

The cat-naming fiasco is one of four new "serious editorial breaches" revealed to the BBC Trust this week by the corporation's director general, Mark Thompson. They follow an admission by Mr Thompson in July of six serious breaches.

In another of the latest breaches, a member of the production team on Film Café, a Bollywood show on the BBC Asian Network, overruled an audience vote for award winners in February, once because of an error in reading the results and then because the genuine winner was unavailable for interview.

Following the dismissal earlier this week of Leona McCambridge, a producer on the Liz Kershaw show on BBC 6Music, two more shows on the station were found to have faked competition results. On the Clare McDonnell show, aired in September 2006, when there were insufficient entries for a competition, a member of the production team supplemented audience winners with fictional winners. Genuine winners were also disregarded, because they came from listeners who had repeatedly won 6Music competitions.

On the Tom Robinson show, also on 6Music, an ad-hoc competition arose when a band offered tickets. No one entered the competition, so the production team invented a fictional winner. Neither Clare McDonnell nor Tom Robinson knew of the deceptions.

Ric Blaxill, the head of 6Music, is believed to have left of his own accord.

The BBC refused to comment on Mr Marson's dismissal, or on reports that up to 25 staff could be dismissed or disciplined as a result of the investigations.

But Mr Thompson said: "I would like to repeat my apology to viewers and listeners who were misled by these editorial lapses.

"The BBC has taken a wide range of actions in recent months to strengthen our editorial guidelines and processes to address the very significant concern rightly felt over editorial misjudgements. Although these lapses amount to tens of hours across one million hours of broadcasting, the BBC's standards must be as high in small-scale competitions as they are in the most major news story.

"I believe that the actions we have and are taking demonstrate the central importance the whole BBC places on getting it right."

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