Television

BBC to cap premium rate for programe phone-ins

MUMBAI: UK pubcaster the BBC will introduce a new policy this week to bring greater clarity to audiences in the way programmes which use premium rate phone calls are priced.

From this week, calls to BBC programmes using premium rate telephony are to be capped at 15 pence. The only exception to this will be in programmes directly related to a charity appeal, such as Comic Relief, Children in Need or Restoration.

In these cases, as now, the audience will be given a clear indication that this is happening. The new policy of having just two premium call categories – one capped at 15p for all BBC programmes and the other for any charity appeals – will make it even clearer to audiences what to expect when they interact with BBC programmes in competitions or votes.

At the moment a number of BBC programmes not directly related to a charitable appeal, such as Strictly Come Dancing, take the opportunity to raise a small additional sum for the charities by increasing the call price, usually by 10 pence. This will no longer happen under the new policy.

BBC DG Mark Thompson said, "BBC programmes do not make money from premium rate calls and we've always told viewers and listeners the costs of calling to enter competitions or to vote. But I want this to be even clearer.

"In future, audiences can be clear that these calls will be capped at 15 pence unless they are directly related to a charity appeal. 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."

The new policy is part of a range of measures the Corporation, with the approval of the BBC Trust, is to take prior to the return of competitions on the BBC.

A new Code of Conduct (bbc.co.uk/competitionspolicy) was announced last month.

The code is the BBC's undertaking to its audiences on the running of competitions and voting, and will be widely publicised to the general public.

45 per cent (7,200) of applicable BBC staff have already attended the mandatory training course Safeguarding Trust which was launched in November following concerns over competitions and editorial breaches.

A limited number of competitions will return to the BBC in a phased manner from January 2008, beginning with Goal Of The Month on Match Of The Day on BBC One and Pop Master on the Ken Bruce show on BBC Radio 2.

A range of measures have been put in place prior to the return of competitions.

These include:

All staff involved in the running of a competition must have attended the BBC's Safeguarding Trust training and the additional training this programme offers in running competitions and voting

A reduction in the number of competitions to be held on BBC programmes

Any proposed competition must have very senior level prior approval

The competition must be supervised by an appropriate editorial figure, and this arrangement must be approved in advance

A senior executive in each BBC Division will advise on any potential issues that may arise from competitions and how approval processes are being bedded down in their division

All use of premium rate phone lines must have the prior approval of the BBC's Editorial Policy Department

BBC programmes are to make audiences aware of the new Code of Conduct on air.

Thompson adds, "The public pay for the BBC, indeed they own the BBC, and quite rightly they have higher expectations of us than of any other broadcaster. Trust in our integrity, our determination to deal fairly and honestly with our audiences, is the most precious thing the BBC possesses.

"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. Early indications are that our audiences approve of what we've done. After an understandable dip, our ratings for trust are recovering."

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