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BBC Fined Over Kids Show "Blue Peter" Phone-In Scam

British media watchdog Ofcom has imposed an unprecedented 50,000 fine on the BBC over a phone-in scam on "Blue Peter," one of the broadcasters most popular children's shows.

Ofcom says the BBC was guilty of serious breaches of the broadcasting code, by allowing a young studio guest to pose as a fake competition winner on the program. It said the BBC was guilty of deception and making a child complicit in that deception.

"The decision to involve a child in the deception for the sake of expediency demonstrated a casual lack of regard for the welfare of that child," Ofcom said.

The broadcaster was found to have breached two rules: the first stating that competitions should be conducted fairly and the second stating that due care must be taken over the welfare and the dignity of people under 18 in such programs.

"As our previous statements have made clear, we fully accept the seriousness of this case and apologize for the breach of trust with our audiences," the BBC said following the decision.

Almost 40,000 children called the "Blue Peter" premium rate phone line on November 27 last year in a competition to win a toy. They were asked to identify a character from the soap opera "EastEnders" from a picture of his feet and an accompanying clue.

But when a technical glitch meant no winning entrant could be selected, a member of the production team asked a girl visiting the studio with her parent to pose as a winning caller.

She was given the correct answer and put on air. Another member of the public visiting the studio on the same day saw what happened and blew the whistle.

July 10, 2007 |

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