Charity Money Controversy Lands BBC in Trouble

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is steeped in controversy again . The broadcasting major , according to a Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Ronald Neil report failed to donate £106,000 for charitable causes . The amount was reportedly raised during television phone-ins . The money went in to the coffers of the company running the phone lines – a subsidiary of the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide.

“We welcome the PwC report and the report to the Trust by Ronald Neil, which will help us to ensure our procedures in the use of premium rate telephone and interactive services at the BBC are as robust as possible.We are disclosing today that £106,000 which should have gone to charity was wrongly retained by Audiocall. This sum was in relation to calls made outside of the window in which votes were counted in a number of shows over a two year period, ending in August 2007. This was a serious oversight in Audiocall which must never be allowed to happen again,” a BBC statement said.

The BBC has been forced to apologise for the misuse of charity money. ‘An editorial failing on Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up 2007’, the BBC show which chose the pop group Scooch as the UK’s entry for last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, led to large numbers of the public calling when voting was closed, and being charged about £6,000.

“Separately, in one instance in the show Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up 2007, communication problems on the show meant a large volume of calls came in when the lines were not open. Neither the staff of this or any other programme, nor anyone else using Audiocall, were aware of the problem with the charity money.The sums due to charity have now been repaid with interest. We would like to apologise to viewers and to the charities for this serious error , ” a BBC spokesperson said.

BBC had earlier taken ‘tough steps’ to change its image. 19,500 staff , according to the statement, have now completed the unprecedented Safeguarding Trust course. A new Code of Conduct for the use of premium rate telephony sets out clearly what the public can expect when they interact with our programmes. In addition a new policy specifies the lowest possible call rate for BBC programmes except in very restricted circumstances involving a BBC related charity appeal. A new centre of excellence at the BBC will provide expertise and oversight of the use of premium rate telephony, liaising closely with the BBC’s Editorial Policy department. It will be mandatory for all programme makers to use the new centre.

“Since September 2007, we have made use of a new technical solution that prevents callers being charged when they call in outside of the time when lines are officially open.Throughout our response to the discovery that some BBC programmes had fallen short of our high standards we have consistently disclosed all instances and outlined to the public the action we are taking to put things right. There are early signs that this has contributed to a restoration of public trust. We do not take that trust for granted. The public can be reassured that all BBC staff are working very hard indeed to be vigilant and to aspire to the highest standards in our industry,” the statement said.

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