BBC publishes code of conduct for competitions and voting

MUMBAI: UK pubcaster The BBC has published for the first time a code of conduct for competitions and voting on the Corporation's television, radio and online services. The code is the BBC's undertaking to its audiences on the running of competitions and voting.

The code, which applies to competition and voting activity on every BBC programme, emphasises the importance of trust in the relationship with audiences. An honest and open relationship is required, in which the public is treated with respect and fairness. Competitions and voting will be handled with rigorous care and integrity.

The code, which will be widely publicised on the BBC's services, also reminds audiences that BBC competitions and votes will not be run on the BBC to make a profit. The only time BBC competitions or votes will be aimed at raising funds will be for a BBC charitable initiative.

In particular, through the code, the BBC undertakes to ensure that:

- competitions and votes are conducted in a way that is honest, open, fair and legal

- winners of competitions and votes are genuine and never invented, pre-chosen or planted by the production team. Every entry should have a fair chance of winning

- it will never ask anyone to pose as a competition contestant or winner

- prizes are described accurately. The BBC will not mislead entrants about the nature of a prize and prize winners will receive their prizes in reasonable time

- there are clear rules for any competition or vote, which are readily available to the public.

The Code states that whatever pressures there may be to "keep the show on the air", the BBC must never compromise its editorial integrity.

If things go wrong with running a competition or vote, the BBC will not cover it up or falsify the outcome.

Premium rate telephone services will be used when the size of the likely response to votes or competitions requires large numbers of calls to be handled, or where raising money for a BBC charitable initiative.

The code of conduct is part of the response by BBC management to the requirement from the BBC Trust for a comprehensive plan to address important issues which arose from serious editorial breaches on the BBC earlier this year.

The code was called for by the BBC Trust, and further detailed advice for programme makers on competitions, voting and running awards and a formal approvals process for such activities is to be submitted to the Trust for its consideration before competitions can resume on the BBC.

It is anticipated that some competitions may return on air before Christmas.

A mandatory editorial training programme for 17,000 staff, Safeguarding Trust, is also now underway.

BBC DG Mark Thompson said, "Trust is the BBC's most important value and we must never do anything that may undermine that trust. That belief is shared by the BBC's programme makers. The new Code will enable audiences to have a clear understanding of what they should expect in the conduct of competitions and votes on the BBC. Audiences enjoy interacting with BBC programmes and output. It's important that they can do so with confidence at all times."

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