Fraud Revealed in BBC Phone Voting

BBC television and radio has suspended phone-in contests from its programming after editors admitted they put fake winners on the air during charity fundraising shows.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

In London, the BBC is ensnared, it seems, in its own quiz show scandal. Several senior editors have been suspended after admitting they put fake winners on the air during charity fundraising shows. And the BBC's director-general Mark Thompson says he is putting a stop to the phone-in contest while this matter is being reviewed.

NPR's Rob Gifford joins us now from London to talk about all of this. Is this the BBC radio or television, Rob?

ROB GIFFORD: It's both, Noah. In fact, it's right across the board. The whole thing began actually with the BBC's flagship children's program called "Blue Peter," watched by millions of children. I watched it growing up. It's the most trusted children's program. And it turned out that they'd faked the winner of a phone-in program. Imagine Big Bird on "Sesame Street" being exposed to being a fraud, that he faked something with the children. This is the kind of shock that it's caused here. Then there was a promotional video for a series of programs about the royal family, but as it turned out have been mischievously edited to apparently show the queen" storming out of a photo session with photographer Annie Leibovitz, when in fact no such incident occurred. And that, in turn, launched a further investigation when once those two things came to light that has exposed a number of other problems especially on phone-ins and especially on charity phone-ins. So it really has shaken things here in Britain.

ADAMS: And Director-General Thompson seems to be coming down, being pretty tough here.

GIFFORD: He is very tough indeed. He suspended some senior editors. He has initiated already a training session called Safeguarding Trust for all editorial stuff across the BBC. And in his speech yesterday, talking to BBC staff and indeed to the country, here is what he had to say.

Mr. MARK THOMPSON (Director-General, BBC): Trust is the foundation of the BBC. We are independent, impartial and honest. This is the most important value we have. This is an issue we have to address now. We have to address it with energy and toughness. We have to put our house in order.

ADAMS: You used to work for the BBC, I understand. In fact, you're talking with us now from Bush House, a BBC building in London. And what are you sort of feeling around you among your former colleagues and staffers there now?

GIFFORD: I think there's a feeling that people are glad that this has come out into the open. I think that people feel what Mark Thompson has said is very important. I think there's a feeling that it's good, that it's addressing a media climate and certainly the standards within the BBC and elsewhere that have slipped. And another comment, perhaps to sum up what Director-General Mark Thompson said yesterday, he said if you have a choice between deception and a program going off the air, let the program go. And that is not something that perhaps we've heard before. The mantra has always been stay on air whatever happens. So I think people do feel there's going to now be a shift in the way the media governs itself across the board in Britain.

ADAMS: Rob Gifford, NPR's London correspondent. Thank you for talking with us.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much for having me.

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