A bit of corruption and a lot of hypocrisy

Was anyone else as shocked as I was by the front pages of some of this morning’s papers? At least two of the right-wing commercial papers led with the story of the BBC having uncovered various incidents of competitions being rigged, and covering up technical problems and the fact of nobody having won with lies, such as announcing a fake winner. The programmes involved included Comic Relief and Children in Need, two of the best known charity fundraising efforts on TV.

However, the way these papers presented the news, you would think the corporation had been caught red-handed by a police investigation or by some sort of journalistic sting. In fact, the issue was discovered in an inquiry by the BBC Trust, which is the BBC’s governing body, and in response to it, the BBC suspended all its phone-in competitions and has suspended a number of its editorial staff also.

The BBC is not the first organisation to be found to be doing things like this, and it is a few incidents and not the norm. How many of the newspapers which carped at the BBC today have trusts which maintain their independence and impartiality? None, of course, because they are all commercial and make barely any pretence of impartiality, and the Mail’s editor Roy Dacre made his views on the so-called subsidariat, including the BBC, in January. Indeed, I’m sure there are people rubbing their hands with glee at this story - it’s a convenient excuse to carp at the competition and proclaim that the BBC aren’t as righteous as they (allegedly) think they are.

I’m not normally a big fan of Danny Baker’s frivolous yet somehow also tedious afternoon show, but this afternoon he started off by making light of the corruption story by opening with a fake phone-in, offering some John Lennon memorabilia, with regular co-presenters and guests like Baylen Leonard as the fake entrants, with Baker telling them that they could no longer get away with this and had to go straight from now on. Later on in the show, he said that the BBC had had a nice little racket going on, and what was Joe Public doing poking his nose into it? I thought this was hilarious. I agree that the corruption isn’t acceptable (particularly on Children in Need - what on earth were they thinking?) and that heads should roll, as they already have and probably still will. But the people who are among the foremost workers of corruption in British society have no business carping at the BBC for a few lies.

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