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Ofcom fines BBC £50,000 over 'Blue Peter'

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Ofcom fines BBC £50,000 over 'Blue Peter'
Ofcom has imposed a £50,000 fine on the BBC over the Blue Peter phone-in scandal.

In March, the corporation admitted that a technical fault had prevented studio staff from accessing details of callers phoning in to take part in a competition designed to raise money for Unicef. Staff asked a child visiting the studio to phone in and give the correct answer, and subsequently awarded the child the prize.

At the time, BBC children's controller Richard Deverell said: "Whilst I am satisfied that there was no premeditated attempt to deceive or mislead viewers, the decision to put a child on air in this way was a serious error of judgement, and does not conform to either the BBC's own guidelines or the high standards we set ourselves in Children's programmes."

After the BBC revealed the error, Ofcom launched an investigation. It concluded that Blue Peter breached rule 2.11 of the Broadcasting Code, which pertains to the fair conduct of competitions, and rule 1.26, which requires broadcasters to take "due care over the physical and emotional welfare" of children.

Ofcom fined the corporation £45,000 for the live transmission on BBC One and another £5,000 for a repeat airing of the programme - where the telephone number was still visible - on the CBBC Channel.

In a statement, the regulator said:

"It was of great concern that, whatever the motivation, the decision to put to air a fake winner resulted in a child audience being misled. The breaches had occurred as a result of a decision that was planned in advance of the programme’s broadcast - albeit only shortly before it. It was the Committee’s view that the breaches had not therefore occurred by ‘accident’ or as a result of a misjudgement by a programme maker in an area which required fine editorial judgement or discretion. This was material which should not, in any circumstances, have been either produced or transmitted.

"Further, cases where the broadcaster has misled the audience are always considered by Ofcom (and its predecessor regulators) as to be amongst the most serious breaches of the Code. They go to the heart of the relationship of trust between the broadcaster and its audience - in this case, an audience which is primarily made up of children."

This is the first time Ofcom has imposed a monetary sanction on the BBC.

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