The BBC has been fined almost half a million pounds by the broadcasting watchdog for deceiving viewers and listeners in a range of competitions.

The £400,000 penalty from Ofcom is the highest ever imposed upon the BBC.

A statement from the regulator on Wednesday condemned the corporation for "very serious" breaches of its broadcasting code.

Programmes including Comic Relief and Radio 1's The Jo Whiley Show were found to have deceived audience members by creating fake competitions winners.

Ofcom's BBC finesTV
Comic Relief BBC1 March 16th 2007 - £45,000
Sport Relief BBC1 July 15th 2006 - £45,000
Children in Need BBC1 November 18th 2005 - £35,000
TMi BBC2 and CBBC on September 16th 2006 - £50,000

Liz Kershaw Show BBC 6 Music May 1st 2005 to January 6th 2006 - £115,000
The Jo Whiley Show, BBC Radio 1 April 20th to May 12th 2006 - £75,000
Russell Brand BBC 6 Music April 9th 2006 - £17,500
The Clare McDonnell Show BBC 6 Music September 2006 - £17,500

Total: £400,000

"The investigations found that in some cases, the production team had taken pre-mediated decisions to broadcast competitions and encourage listeners to enter in the full knowledge that the audience stood no chance of winning," Ofcom said.

"In other cases, programmes faced with technical problems, made up the names of winners."

The majority of broadcasting breaches were found to have taken place when inexperienced staff members were let down by BBC managers over compliance and training, a spokesperson added.

The BBC has already been fined £50,000 for a Blue Peter episode which ignored viewer votes to name the show's new pet.

Ofcom has also fined ITV £5.68 million over serious issues with premium phoneline competitions on programmes such as Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.

While the BBC has been condemned for deceiving viewers and listeners, it did not profit from any of the phone competitions.

30/07/2008 10:04:41