Friday, February 23, 2007

Phone con spreads to BBC

A web exclusive (which sounds so much more exciting than "Ian decided he didn't want this back in December and now I've failed to sell it to the Mirror, too", doesn't it?)

Before all the Richard and Judy furore blew up I was investigating other dodgy phone practices by Cactus TV... here's what I wrote for the Eye just before Christmas.

Interactivity is the key word at the BBC – but no matter how many times presenters repeat those phone and text numbers, some shows are definitely more interactive than others.

Eamonn Holmes was the guest on an recent edition of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen, the cookery show made by Cactus TV, the production outfit behind Channel 4's Richard and Judy.

Like all the show's celebrity guests, he nominated his “heaven dish” (apple charlottes with thyme custard) and “hell dish” (poached pears with ginger ice cream) so that viewers could vote by text message which one they wanted to see host James Martin cook at the end of the programme. As usual, they were also invited to send in questions for guest chefs Atul Kochhar and Silvena Rowe with the promise, that, as the programme’s website puts it, “the best questions will be answered live on the programme, 10am-11.30am on BBC One.”

Curiously, Eamonn Holmes was also hosting his Radio Five Live show from 9 to 11 that morning – and he was inviting texts and phone calls from listeners on that, too. So how did the great man manage to be in two places at once?

“We very occasionally pre-record Saturday Kitchen,” admits a BBC spokesman. “What happens is we record both endings – the heaven recipe and the hell recipe – so it doesn’t detract from the viewers’ experience.”

But what about the questions you invite viewers to spend their money texting in? “Well, we get thousands and thousands of questions each week, and we only ever answer two or three of them on air. Not everyone actually wants their question answered on air.”

So do you answer all the rest of them off air, then?

“No,” says the spokesman. “There’s thousands of them.”

Is this a rip-off? What do you think? Call now!


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