The communications regulatory body OFCOM has been urged to investigate the BBC following accusations that it used its ‘Sport Relief’ programme to tackle budget deficits. The charity event raised almost £30 million pounds in legitimate contributions. However, concerns were raised when post-watershed telephone donators were diverted to the Babestation network, which was taking calls on behalf of the BBC. A BBC spokesperson today argued that in ‘the current climate, outsourcing telephony services is a commonplace occurrence, and a necessary part of large scale events such as ‘Sport Relief’, particularly as a large percentage of the 2010 telecommunications budget was redirected to fund the recent rebranding of Dr Who, whilst the remainder has been invested in a bigger hutch for Bill Oddy’. The upshot is that the BBC simply ‘doesn’t have enough phones’.
The BBC has also been accused of indulging a conflict of interest by allowing the Babestation network to influence the programme. Presenters Fearne Cotton, Christine Bleakley and Davina McCall presented links wearing lingerie whilst lying prostrate on mattresses, often together. When reminding the viewers of the need for donations, the presenters were seen brandishing mobile phones and mouthing to camera, whilst occasional imitating an explicit sexual act. The BBC received several complaints on the night ranging from disillusionment at the lack of professionalism, to outrage at the overtly sexual nature of the broadcast. Miss Cotton was described as ‘listless, disinterested and unable to engage the audience’ and Miss Bleakley was described as kneeling in ‘a demonstratively sexually prone position, putting one in mind of a childhood depiction of a sunrise behind rolling hills’.
OFCOM is expected to make formal enquiries in the next two weeks. However, speaking at a Parliamentary Select Committee, BBC Chief Executive Mark Thompson denied that the Corporation was exploiting its female employees and a charitable event in order to boost shortfalls in its budget. Mr Thompson instead argued that the BBC was solving its financial difficulties through frugal management of non-essential costs, downsizing its radio portfolio and adopting a ‘Channel Five approach to studio design’