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Blue Peter rocked by phone-in scandal

Blue Peter presenters unwittingly took part in a fake phone-in as part of a Unicef appeal

The BBC has been forced to apologise to Blue Peter viewers are it emerged that a phone-in on the kids' TV programme actually had a fake winner.

The apology came as the result of an internal investigation following a viewer complaint. It emerged that a Unicef premium rate phone-in on the live programme, broadcast on 27 November last year, had experienced 'technical problems' that meant viewer calls didn't get through. Instead Blue Peter's producers roped in a girl visiting the studio to take part in the phone-in. She was then awarded the competition prize.

Richard Deverell, controller of BBC Children's (sic) said in a statement: "BBC Children's has a deep and genuine commitment to our audiences, and our relationship with them is built on trust. 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, and does not conform to either the BBC's own guidelines or the high standards we set ourselves in Children's programmes.

"I would like to apologise unequivocally to viewers, to all the children who took part in the competition, and we have already apologised directly to the child involved and her family for this incident. Part of our commitment to a relationship built on trust requires us to disclose this error and try to put it right, which we are now doing. It is very important that Blue Peter takes action to do this, and to ensure that lessons are learned."

ITV to Play no more

The news comes on top of a decision yesterday by ITV to permanently drop its ITV Play interactive game show channel from its roster. ITV was heavily criticised after it had over-charged viewers calling programmes using premium rate phone lines.

The BBC has also been criticised for a fake phone-in for Saturday Kitchen . It emerged that even though the programme had been pre-recorded the BBC still encouraged viewers to call a premium rate number so they could take part in the programme, even though it was impossible for them to do so.