On the same day that another eight City slickers were arrested on insider trading charges, the BBC has offered us a reminder that some of the world’s most admired corporations are less than squeaky clean. Auntie has been hit with a record £400,000 fine for faking phone-ins, with eight shows (four TV and four radio) fined individually for misleading viewers.
Regulator Ofcom described the breaches as ‘very serious’, finding that ‘in each of these cases the BBC deceived its audience by faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly’. The regulator uncovered occasions when viewers were invited to phone in after the winners had already been chosen (including pre-recorded shows that claimed to be live); at other times, programmes with technical problems just made up the winners.
It reserved its greatest ire for the Liz Kershaw Show on BBC6 Music, which was slapped with a £115,000 fine; there was also a £75,000 hit for the Jo Whiley Show on Radio 1. Two other BBC 6 Music shows – Russell Brand and Clare McDonnell – will have to cough up £17,500. On TV, it looks like the charity shows are the worst offenders – Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children in Need all received big fines (though this does raise the question: does Ofcom plan to reclaim the money directly from the charities?). BBC2 show TMi was the final villain of the piece.
The bang-to-rights Beeb has admitted to ‘serious, deliberate and, in some cases, repeated… editorial failures’ – but it insisted that it is cleaning up its act, and pointed out that it never profited financially from any of these fake phone-ins. This may have been a dig at ITV, which received a much steeper £5.7m fine from Ofcom after faking premium rate phone-ins on shows like Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Meanwhile the City’s attempt to clean up its act continued yesterday, with eight more insider trading arrests, including a back-office employee of Swiss bank UBS and a sub-contractor of JP Morgan Cazenove. Prosecutors have already charged traders Matthew and Neel Uberoi and former Cazenove partner Malcolm Calvert (who’s pleading not guilty on 12 counts).
Traders are undoubtedly easy targets, and it remains to be seen whether the FSA can make any of these charges stick. But none of this is going to help engender public trust in the corporate world, is it..?