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BBC introduces competition codes to regain public trust

LONDON - The BBC is to introduce its first codes of conduct across all of its broadcast and online competitions, which will aim to emphasise 'honesty and fairness' in the wake of the 'Blue Peter' phone-in and BBC 6 Music scandals.

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The pledges, which were introduced by Mark Thompson, director-general of the corporation, will aim to restore public trust in all competition activity, after a spate of serious editorial breaches involving phone-in competitions that have threatened to undermine confidence in the BBC.

Among the incidents that have led to the creation of the BBC Trust's new legislation include: a fake winner of a 'Blue Peter' phone-in competition; an audience vote in Bollywood programme 'Film Cafe' being overruled by the producer; and two BBC 6 Music competitions involving the Tom Robinson and Clare McDonnell shows announcing fictional winners.

Ric Blaxill, head of programmes at BBC 6 Music, resigned from his post following the editorial breaches, which also involved the Liz Kershaw show.

Standards set to be readdressed in the shake-up include: fair dealings in all competitions; winners must never be invented or planted; nobody must be asked to pose as a competition winner; prizes must be described accurately; and only charitable BBC competitions must deal in fundraising.

The BBC said the new codes, which apply to all editorial output, would be widely publicised to viewers and listeners and emphasise that an "honest and open relationship" is needed to ensure integrity across BBC competitions.

The BBC added premium rate phone-ins would only be used when it anticipated a large number of responses from the public.

Thompson said: "Trust is the most important value and we must never do anything that may undermine that trust. That belief is shared by the BBC's programme makers.

"The new code will enable audiences to have a clear understanding of what they should expect in the conduct of competitions and votes on the BBC."

In September, the BBC outlined a new web project exploring the way contemporary media content is produced that would form the basis of a wider plan to address concerns about editorial breaches.

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