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BBC phone-in response under spotlight
Thursday March 1, 2007
Questions are being asked about why the BBC failed to take action over Saturday Kitchen phone-in allegations made back in December.
Yesterday, the BBC Vision director, Jana Bennett, said that "as soon as" the problems over scripting and pre-recording the BBC1 cookery show "came to light, we took immediate action".
Her statement followed reports in some of the Sunday papers that on February 17, Saturday Kitchen was inviting viewers to make premium-rate phone calls to a "live" cookery show that had in fact already been recorded.
The giveaway was the fact that presenter James Martin's watch showed the time as 2.30pm, different from the time of broadcast.
However, Private Eye reporter Adam Macqueen has said he contacted the BBC about the issue on December 15 last year.
Mr Macqueen added that he asked the corporation how it was that Eamonn Holmes appeared to be live on Saturday Kitchen on Saturday December 3, when he was simultaneously presenting his Radio Five Live show.
He wrote a story after speaking to a BBC spokesman which was not published by Private Eye, but of which he still has a copy.
Mr Macqueen said he was told by a BBC spokesman: "We very occasionally pre-record Saturday Kitchen. What happens is we record both endings - the heaven recipe and the hell recipe - so it doesn't detract from the viewers' experience."
He then asked: "But what about the questions you invite viewers to spend their money texting in?"
The BBC spokesman responded: "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."
Mr Macqueen continued: "So do you answer all the rest of them off air, then?" To which the spokesman responded: "No. There are thousands of them."
His story concluded by asking: "Is this a rip-off? What do you think? Call now!"
Mr Macqueen said: "I did this story for Private Eye back in December and the line then was that this did happen regularly, and that it wasn't really anything for anyone to worry about."
The BBC denied the Private Eye reporter had asked about problems with phone lines in December, saying: "We have nothing to add to Jana Bennett's statement."
A BBC spokesman today pointed out that viewers can phone-in to the show, but cannot text the show, while BBC sources said only viewers who actually get through to speak to an operator are charged, "which means often less than £10 is made, which goes to charity anyway".