Sunday, 30 March 2008

"Call in to Win... or not!"

Picture the scene. I’m just stepping on to a plane and my phone rings. It’s my old colleague Bam Bam, who asked innocently enough “What are you doing tomorrow?” As it happened, I was free. “Great” he said, “You can join me on BBC London. I’m standing in for Danny Baker and you can join me on air!”

Before I’d had a chance to stow my bag (wheels first of course) in the overhead locker, I’d apparently agreed to get back on the radio again.

So 24 hours later, there I was on the other side of the desk from Bam in the lovely BBC London 94.9 studios about to do a 2 hour, predominantly talk show!! As it happened it was great fun and getting back on the air reminded me of why I love radio so much… but the reason why I’m telling you this is to highlight an incident that went on during the show.

A caller phoned in with a couple of tickets to a BBC London live show that Danny Baker was hosting at the Hackney Empire. He had a couple of spares and suggested we give them to the first caller. There then ensued a rather comedic on-air conversation as to whether this constituted a competition or not. (All competitions had been banned across the BBC after the ‘fakery’ rows that affected the media so badly in the last 12 months.)

The lovely producer came through on talk back and said it was fine. We discussed it for a few more moments… and then a more senior Editor appeared to have hot-footed from the programming offices and glided in majestically into the production studio, and had an animated conversation with the show producer. Presumably they were discussing whether giving away a couple of spare tickets TO A BBC LONDON EVENT (!!) was a competition or not and therefore, the most heinous of crimes possible to commit!

The answer was ‘Yes – it is a competition... Don’t you dare do it!”

I have now officially witnessed first hand the paranoia that still exists to do with contesting on the BBC, and layers of bureaucracy that have been developed to ensure they are run according to the letter…. or not at all, as was the case!

If you’re really bored, go to The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines subsection about Interactivity and Competitions and have a read. Wow. They really mean business. Which is why if you heard Jonathan Ross’s show this weekend, it makes it even funnier! Please Listen again on the BBC Radio Player to the link that is about 30 minutes in, where Jonathan and producer Andy discuss the fact that they are now officially the 4th programme allowed to do a contest again! Match of the Day, Ken Bruce and one other as yet unidentified show all piped them to the post. But the rigmarole they had to go through was comedy gold!! It included the fact they had to solicit for callers 1 hour in advance of the contest!! Blimey!

Jonathan provides, as usual, a degree of common sense over the whole thing and it’s a shame that he doesn’t dictate Editorial Policy. It would be far more entertaining and practical. It’s funny how a few bad decisions in the past, by a few individuals, have impacted on the whole of the BBC in such a big way.

So, 2 thoughts to come out of this;

1. If you’re planning on entering BBC competition in the near future when they all come back online… be prepared to be bored rigid by about 20 minutes of disclaimers / guidelines they’ll read out on air.
2. Don’t answer the phone and agree to something without much thought as you’re about to get on a plane!

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