Media in the Press 21.2.11

FEARGHUS Roulston, a postgraduate journalism student at Edinburgh Napier University, reports on the media stories making today’s newspapers…

The BBC is in the headlines again today after fresh allegations that it has misled viewers. The Scottish Daily Mail (page 34) reports that BBC chiefs are holding “urgent talks with one of their top production companies after being dragged into another fakery row”.

The allegations concern the show, ‘The Real Hustle’, which is made for BBC3 for Objective Productions. The premise of the programme is that presenters hoax members of the public with elaborate scams, later refunding the money they get from them.

However, the Mail alleges that a number of victims have been revealed to be professional actors who were briefed in advance and paid for their part in the stunts. It quotes several actors who claim they were paid for their role in the popular show. Rob O’Shea is quoted as saying: “The extent to which it is staged is farcical really. I was given prompts all the way through about how to behave.”

Objective Productions have denied the claim. The Mail quotes a spokesperson, saying: “All the people on the show have been hustled for real…occasionally because of, for example, equipment problems we have had to re-shoot short elements of the set-up after the hustle.”

The BBC has faced allegations like this in the past. BBC1 Controller, Peter Fincham, resigned four years ago following allegations that a documentary misrepresented the Queen. Three years ago, it was fined for the way it ran some competitions, including phone-in ones on radio.

Meanwhile, Channel 4 has also come under fire: for Jamie Oliver’s new television programme, reports the Scottish Daily Mail (page 34). A scene in Jamie’s Dream School – in which Oliver gets two teenage boys to leave the room to produce sperm samples for comparative purposes – has been branded “hugely distasteful” and “horrible” by former Home Office minister, Anne Widdecombe.

In more cheerful news for the BBC, The Scotsman (page 19) understands former Conservative chair, Lord Patten, looks set to be confirmed as the head of the corporation’s governing body, the BBC Trust. Lord Patten, the Oxford University Chancellor and former governor of Hong Kong, is reportedly expected to replace Sir Michael Lyons when he steps down in May. A spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is quoted as saying: “We will not comment on speculation at this stage.”

Finally, though, the BBC comes in for more criticism today with The Scottish Sun (page 32) claiming it is “blowing TV licence cash on wacky lessons for staff – including how to interrupt politely”. The presenter of the One Show, Matt Baker, revealed how he attended a course called the ‘Art of Interrupting Gracefully’. The BBC is quoted as saying the lessons taught employees “what makes a good interview”.