Written by Rusty
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Topics: TV, BBC

Thursday, 18 December 2008

image for UK Media Watchdog Comoffit Barks at BBC
BBC win the 2008 "No-Win Competition" Award

The BBC has been fined £95,000 by media watchdog Comoffit for broadcasting scores of quizzes which listeners didn't even have a cat in Hell's chance of winning.

The competitions ran on eight editions of Dermot O'Shyster's Radio 2 show in 2006 and five Bony Heartburn programmes on BBC London 94.9 in 2005 and 2006, earning the BBC over £20 million.

All were pre-recorded the week before however, so there was no way listeners could take part in them, with even less chances of winning Jack Shit.

The Tom Robinson Show on BBC 6 Music was also judged to have breached the regulator's code after making up the name of a £10,000 prize competition winner in September 2006 : a certain Mrs. T. Robinson (no relation).

These were "serious" breaches of consumer trust and on-air apologies were needed, Comoffit ruled. The BBC "accepted" the findings, saying secrecy protocols and operational procedures had since been tightened to Spartan standards and they wouldn't get caught with their pants down again.

Radio 2 was fined £70,000 for eight breaches between June and December 2006 and told to broadcast the watchdog's findings on-air "at a time, and in a form, to be decided by BBC Director General Mork Thompson: specifically at 02:00 am on Radio 7's Greatest Graveyard Hits.

The Comoffit report stated O'Shyster's Saturday afternoon quiz show was pre-recorded on these occasions "due to the presenter's other work commitments", specifically checking on his offshore numbered bank account deposits.

When the competitions were run, winners were randomly selected from a list of listeners who had paid their television licence on time, the report stated.

The watchdog added it was "very concerned by the repeated, pre-meditated and deliberate decisions to include competitions in pre-recorded programmes that were broadcast 'as live'", especially on programmes with such blatantly suspicious names as "Ripoffs", "Two Short Planks Question Time", and the "Thickies Quiz."

Comoffit also said it was "wholly unacceptable" that the BBC was aware of these breaches and hence "knowingly misled the public" but had decided they were not serious enough to be declared in a previous "trawl" of even worse mistakes which they had no intention of owning up to.

As well as Comoffit's investigation, the BBC Trust - (which no-one now does) - was effectively created to act as an in-house watchdog for the BBC and launched its own inquiry into the quizzes, only to discover it had won four of them.

Comoffit chief Sir Darcy Spifta told reporters "These competitions were run unfairly and therefore did not match the expectations of the likely audience."

He added that the cases were "serious" and "did involve audience deception" because listeners were "misled."

Further, the BBC Board of Governors suggestion that the entire scandal should be swept under the rug and everyone keep shtum, as the British public were too thick to realise they had been done over, was rejected as being a 'show of bad faith'.

In response to the two reports, the BBC then issued a statement saying that "These historical breaches were tackled by a comprehensive action plan that included a major training project for over 19,000 staff, all of whom have now unfortunately been made redundant in recent cutbacks."

Last week Comoffit released its judgements on a number of other matters, including the furore over the naming of a cat on Blue Peter.

The show's production team deliberately rigged a children's online poll in 2006, in which the winning entry - Twathooks - was disregarded in favour of the name Fuckwit.

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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