Saturday Funnies: BBC Admits Faking Audience Phone Calls

It appears the BBC condones faking...audience phone calls, that is.

In a not so stunning revelation, the BBC admitted to allowing employees to call in to shows either asking for audience involvement, or offering prizes, when the network wasn't receiving enough real feedback.

Gotta love it.

One truly delicious example occurred during Comic Relief back in March (emphasis added, h/t Tim Graham):

In a section of the appeal programme, viewers were invited to donate money to Comic Relief and were informed that by calling in, they could win prizes that belonged to a famous couple.

The first two callers taken on air gave incorrect answers. The other waiting callers were lost and a third caller was heard on air successfully answering the question. This caller was in fact not a viewer but a member of the production team.

Another example was even more "heinous":

In pre-recorded programmes, presented as if they were live, a competition was announced that appeared to feature genuine listeners phoning in to take part, one of whom would win a prize on air.

In fact, in recorded programmes, there were no competitions or prizes and all of the callers were actually members of production team and their friends.

Yikes. As you might imagine, this is serious stuff, so much so that senior BBC staffers have been suspended.

The outcry from political figures and organizations was also quite fascinating:

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT CULTURE SPOKESMAN DON FOSTER

Today is 'Black Wednesday' for public service broadcasting as the trust we've traditionally placed in broadcasters is called into question. It's as if the antics of Damien Day in Drop the Dead Donkey weren't a spoof after all.

The systemic failures... of today's announcements must never be allowed to happen again.

We rely upon our public broadcasters to present information which is impartial, accurate and without agenda.

Such lapses in judgment are wholly unacceptable and broadcasters now have a lot to do to regain the public's confidence and trust.

CONSERVATIVE MP JOHN WHITTINGDALE, CHAIR OF THE COMMONS CULTURE COMMITTEE

This represents a crisis for British broadcasting. Today, Ofcom have produced a report which details how every single major broadcaster is guilty of misleading viewers on their quiz programmes, and now the BBC have produced this report which shows that it isn't just one single lapse, but it has been regular lapses.

Viewers have been given a completely misleading impression on some of the programmes which you would have expected to have maintained the highest standards.

Yet, what I like most about this story is how NPR's Tom Regan claimed this to be rather common (emphasis added):

But you want to know a dirty little secret? I've seen stuff like this before. More than once I heard producers for radio or TV shows where I worked in Canada tell an intern or production assistant to call the program when the number of calls from the real audience started to tail off with 20 minutes to go.

It happened in print, too. Years ago in Nova Scotia, I worked with a [sic] editor who, when he had not received any usable mail for the op-ed page, would write letters to the paper under his cat's name. It became a sure sign that things were slow when we would see Mrs. Tuffy's name in the paper.

Now THAT'S funny!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.