BBC phone-in scandals damage public attitudes

Almost half of respondents to a new survey said they were less likely to donate to BBC charity appeals because of the recent phone-in scandals involving Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief.

Forty-four per cent of the 1,660 people polled by market research agency Opinion Matters said they were now less likely to contribute to BBC charity programmes after the corporation’s admission last month that production staff posed as winners of phone-in competitions during telethons for all three causes after technical problems prevented viewers from getting through. The percentage rose to 48 per cent among women and to almost 50 per cent among 25 to 34-year-olds.

A spokesperson for Children in Need said the charity hoped its supporters would understand the distinction between “an editorial mistake made by BBC Scotland programme-makers and the operations of the charity itself, which were not implicated in the findings of the BBC’s initial report into the editorial review”.

However, she admitted that the integrity of the Children in Need television programme was crucial to maintaining audience trust and expressed support for the BBC's efforts to make sure the mistakes weren't repeated.

A statement by Comic Relief, which is the parent charity of Sport Relief, also stressed the distinction between BBC production teams and charity staff, who are not employed by the BBC.

"Comic Relief is hugely disappointed by this, but now that the BBC has undertaken a full internal review we have every assurance from them 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," it read.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said the regulator was considering the comments of Children in Need and Comic Relief about what had happened.

“Because of the profile and seriousness of what has happened, we just want to be absolutely sure that everything is as it should be,” he said. “We certainly aren’t starting from an assumption that the charities have got anything wrong.”

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