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From PA:


The BBC has suspended all phone-in competitions after uncovering a string of viewer deceptions involving Children In Need, Comic Relief and Sports Relief.

All three charity appeal programmes featured fake competition winners.

Shows on the World Service, children's channel CBBC and radio station 6 Music also duped the public.

The six new cases came to light after BBC director-general Mark Thompson ordered an internal investigation in the wake of the royal row over a BBC1 trailer which wrongly implied the Queen had stormed out of a sitting with photographer Annie Leibovitz.

He presented his findings in a meeting with the BBC Trust, which had demanded an explanation over the royal fiasco.

The Trust called the editorial breaches "deeply disappointing" and ordered an immediate inquiry.

Mr Thompson said the deceptions were "totally unacceptable" and declared: "The behaviour of a small number of production staff who have passed themselves off as viewers and listeners must stop.

"We must now swiftly put our house in order."

But he repeatedly dodged questions about whether he or any other senior BBC executives should resign.

And he risked accusations of trivialising the matter by referring to the use of fake winners as a "white lie".

Mr Thompson insisted the mistakes were not made out of personal gain or intended malice, but occurred mainly as a result of technical hitches.

"We have had a rude awakening. It is clearly a grave matter but the right thing to do is to take steps to make sure we close these gaps," he told BBC News 24.

"A group of people have taken it upon themselves to carry out this kind of white lie. It is not acceptable, it is better to come clean - the public will understand."

Asked on Sky News if he was considering resignation, Mr Thompson replied: "My task today is not to think about my own position but to roll up my sleeves with the rest of the BBC and make sure we sort it out."

The six fresh cases follow the revelation that Blue Peter persuaded a child to pose as a competition winner, which resulted in a £50,000 fine by regulator Ofcom.

The Comic Relief incident occurred on March 16 this year, two days after the Blue Peter con came to light.

Viewers were invited to ring in for the chance to win prizes belonging to a famous couple, with money from the calls going to charity.

The successful "caller" was a member of the production team.

A Sport Relief phone-in in July 2006 featured a similar scenario.

The Children In Need competition, broadcast in Scotland in 2005, ended with the name of a fictitious winner being read out on air.

The internal audit goes back to January 2005 and one million hours of footage are being searched for possible breaches.

The investigation is continuing and Mr Thompson admitted "possible further historical incidents could emerge".

He unveiled a package of measures to make sure such editorial breaches never happen again.

They include making all 16,500 programmes and content staff attend a new training programme "focusing on the issue of honesty with audiences".

In an internal broadcast, Mr Thompson told staff: "There is no excuse for deception. I know the idea of deceiving the public would simply never occur to most people in the BBC.

"We have to regard deception as a very grave breach of discipline which will normally lead to dismissal.

"If you have a choice between deception and a programme going off air, let the programme go. It is far better to accept a production problem and make a clean breast to the public than to deceive."

In a statement, the Trust said it was "deeply concerned that significant failures of control and compliance within the BBC, and in some cases by its suppliers, have compromised the BBC's values of accuracy and honesty".

It added: "The director-general's interim report to the Trust about additional editorial failings shows further deeply disappointing evidence of insufficient understanding amongst certain staff of the standards of accuracy and honesty expected, and inadequate editorial controls to ensure compliance with those standards.

"We have made clear that we regard any deception or breach of faith with our audiences as being utterly unacceptable."

Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This is a grim day for the BBC. Mark Thompson has uncovered a hornet's nest of deception at what was Britain's most trusted broadcaster.

"The most worrying thing is the impact it will have on charitable giving, as many of the fake winners were in programmes raising money for good causes."

Mr Thompson also announced an independent inquiry into the row over the Queen trailer.

The findings will be made public in the autumn.

Mr Thompson said there were "serious questions for the BBC to answer about its role in this deeply regrettable incident and to learn lessons from it".

Asked if BBC1 controller Peter Fincham - who told journalists the Queen "walked out in a huff" - would lose his job, Mr Thompson replied: "That was not a subject that came up (at today's meeting with the BBC Trust)."

Today's disclosures came on the same day industry watchdog Ofcom lambasted TV broadcasters for a "systemic failure" in their operation of premium rate phone services.

Some broadcasters were in denial about their responsibility to viewers, it said.

Ofcom's inquiry looked into more than 20 alleged phone-in quiz scandals - including GMTV, the BBC and Five - since March.

Richard Ayre, who led the inquiry, said: "Phoning a TV show isn't like ordering pizza. When you put the phone down, nothing arrives: you just have to trust that your call was counted.

"If broadcasters want audiences to go on spending millions calling in, they need to show they take consumer protection as seriously as programme content."

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards vowed to take serious action against broadcasters who break the rules.

Comic Relief, which also organises Sport Relief, said: "Comic Relief is disappointed by this but now that the BBC has undertaken a full internal review, the charity has every confidence that the appropriate checks and procedures will be put in place to ensure that there will be no further breaches of this kind in the future, in Comic Relief or Sport Relief programmes on the BBC.

"The charity would like to reassure its supporters that these broadcast problems will not affect its grant-giving or donations in any way. Additionally, it is confident that BT, who generously provide systems and network facilities for its appeals, is not implicated in these two incidents."

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