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Another bastion of British innocence and decency crumbled today as beloved BBC Children's TV programme Blue Peter was implicated in a phone-in competition scandal.

This particular scam wasn't quite as egregious as some, but is still a tale of shame. Last November, Blue Peter held a phone-in competition. The calls cost 10p, a trifle over 3p of which went to Unicef. The Beeb itself claims to have made no money from the compo.

However, a technical hitch meant callers couldn't get through to the studio and thus participants couldn't be quizzed on air. Rather than cancel or postpone the event, a Beeb staffer simply roped in a passing child. The innocent nipper was easily corrupted, agreeing to pose as a caller and answer a question. This ringer was duly declared the winner and accepted the wages of sin, taking home "a prize chosen from a selection of children's toys".

It seems that an alert viewer subsequently complained by email, and an internal Beeb investigation lifted the lid on the bribery.

BBC Children controller Richard Deverell said the Beeb kiddie service "has a deep and genuine commitment to our audiences, and our relationship with them is built on trust".

He had nothing to say regarding any possible need, in today's imperfect world, to occasionally pick a pocket or two. ®

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