Ofcom fines the BBC for unfair conduct of viewer and listener competitions

30 July 2008

30 July 2008

Ofcom has today fined the BBC a total of £400,000 for breaches of Ofcom's Broadcasting Code ("the Code") relating to unfair conduct of viewer and listener competitions. This fine is the highest financial penalty to be imposed by Ofcom against the BBC.

Specifically, Ofcom has found the BBC in breach of Rule 2.11 of the Code ("Competitions should be conducted fairly...") for faking winners and misleading its audience in the following programmes:

Television

  • Comic Relief, BBC1 on 16 March 2007                                             £45,000
  • Sport Relief, BBC1 on 15 July 2006                                                   £45,000
  • Children in Need, BBC1 (Scotland) on 18 November 2005               £35,000
  • TMi, BBC2 and CBBC on 16 September 2006                                  £50,000

Radio

  • Liz Kershaw Show, BBC 6 Music between 25 July 2005 - 6 January 2007    £115,000
  • The Jo Whiley Show, BBC Radio 1 between 20 April - 12 May 2006           £75,000
  • Russell Brand, BBC 6 Music on 9 April 2006                                                £17,500
  • The Clare McDonnell Show, BBC 6 Music from September 2006                 £17,500

Ofcom considered that these breaches of the Code were very serious. In each of these cases the BBC deceived its audience by faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly.

The investigations found that in some cases, the production team had taken pre-mediated decisions to broadcast competitions and encourage listeners to enter in the full knowledge that the audience stood no chance of winning. In other cases, programmes faced with technical problems, made up the names of winners.

Overall, Ofcom found that the BBC failed to have adequate management oversight of its compliance and training procedures to ensure that the audience was not misled.

Although viewers and listeners paid the cost of their calls to take part in these competitions the BBC did not receive any money from the entries.

The full Adjudications are available on the Ofcom website - see Related Items.