BBC caps price of quiz phone lines

LONDON - The BBC said on Sunday it would reintroduce a limited number of premium-rate line competitions in the New Year but would cap the price of calls.

It said a new policy on phone quizzes would bring greater clarity to audiences but would also result in less money going to charity.

The announcement follows a year of "fake TV" admissions that have rocked the publicly funded broadcaster.

The BBC suspended phone-related competitions in July after media regulator Ofcom said TV programmes and quizzes using premium rate telephone numbers frequently misled viewers, such as naming fictional winners.

In one case producers of the flagship BBC children's programme "Blue Peter" deceived young viewers by ignoring their votes to choose a name for the show's kitten.

In future the BBC will have just two premium call rates - one capped at 15 pence and another for charity appeals.

As a result programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing will no longer add an additional sum for charity - typically around 10 pence - to viewer voting lines.

"I do understand that this will mean that slightly less money will go to the charities as a result of the new policy, but we're already talking to them about other ways of supporting their work," said BBC Director-General Mark Thompson.

The first phone-in competitions to return under the new policy will be Goal of the Month on BBC 1's Match of the Day and Pop Master on Radio 2's Ken Bruce show.

The BBC said there would be fewer competitions than before, and any proposed competition would have to have "very senior level" prior approval.

"Trust in our integrity, our determination to deal fairly and honestly with our audiences, is the most precious thing the BBC possesses," said Thompson.

He said that the BBC's trust ratings were recovering after an "understandable dip."

"The BBC has followed a policy of confronting problems, disclosing everything and giving the public a clear explanation of what we are doing to get things right," he said.

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