I think I am going, as Cypress Hill so memorably articulated, “insane in the membrane”. The cause of this mental collapse is down to the fact that good old Blue Peter has joined the ever-growing and ever sorrier-looking list of TV folk who have been banged to rights for faking phone ins. What in blazes is going on?
How can so many formats be under such scrutiny? The press is becoming obsessed, as they feast on more and more scandals surrounding premium rate number quizzes.
Apparently, Blue Peter viewers had been asked to phone the show on a premium rate number last November for a chance to win a toy, with proceeds going towards a Unicef appeal. Shock horror, telephone operators had technical problems, which meant they could not get information to studio staff. As a result, a member of staff asked a child who was visiting the studio to phone the programme and give the answer on air. The child then won the competition.
I’m inclined to agree with the blogger ‘nationwide’, responding to the Grauniad’s Organ Grinder blog, which suggests that tarring and feathering Blue Peter for one gaff is a bit much, given all their good work. OK, perhaps they should have announced that the winner was going to be announced on the next show due to a technical hitch rather than go for instant gratification by roping in an unsuspecting child in the studio to claim the prize, but with all the money still going to UNICEF, a little more slack needs to be given
The BBC has quickly apologised and has publicly fronted up their sin. Richard Deverell, BBC children’s programmes controller, said: “Whilst I am satisfied that there was no premeditated attempt to deceive or mislead viewers, the decision to put a child on air in this way was a serious error of judgement”.
Cor blimey guv, here’s one I made on the spur of the moment without any sticky-backed plastic and it’s a bloody disaster!
Executives are running around like headless chickens trying to pick through the debris and trying to find a way out of this mess and salvage some trust. Of course, for the broadcaster, it’s paramount to try and find a way back but I am not convinced that it actually is such a huge disaster.
OK, so Britain’s TV industry has been embroiled in another controversy over phone-in quizzes and how viewers are charged. The likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have all suspended some premium rate interactive services after problems emerged. But has the issue really permeated to the man on the street? Is the media feeding frenzy amplifying the story to a greater extent than actual public interest? The tabloids and broadsheets are having a field day spinning out the chaos; the pyrotechnics are sensational. The issue needs to be addressed, of course, but are the TV networks really corrupt? Surely it’s just laziness, or complacency, blown out of all proportion.
Everyone in “TV land” knows that true and compelling interactivity with the viewing audience is the Holy Grail. Apart from voting out the odd sad celeb or wannabe from a reality format, we have yet to see a challenging, interactive and creative [format] that works. The suspension of these scams might make the various production companies exercise their creative muscles.
The great British public is very generous and happy to forgive if the appropriate and proper action is instigated; Blue Peter has, after all, weathered a number of storms, from Richard Bacon’s coke habit a few years ago to puppy substitution in the early 60s. Any chatter about brand damage is for habitués of overpriced media watering holes rather than down the local on a Saturday night.
God forbid, however, that anybody reinstates premium lines without a real solution in place. If the systems fail after re-launch, then there will be a need for a public execution and the public will back it. Arrogant TV money-men should not rush back until they have a proper solution connected to compelling content.