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Over the years Blue Peter has faced many controversial events

ControversiesEdit

Presenters sacked In October 1998, Richard Bacon became the first presenter to have his contract terminated mid-run, after he admitted to taking cocaine, following reports in a tabloid newspaper. Lorraine Heggessey, then the Head of BBC Children's programmes, apologised on air.[86]

However, before Bacon, four past presenters left the programme after not getting their contracts renewed, each for differing reasons; these were Leila Williams in 1962, Christopher Wenner in 1980, Michael Sundin in 1985 and Romana D'Annunzio in 1998.[1]

Fake phone competition winner It was revealed by the BBC that a phone-in competition supporting the UNICEF "Shoe Biz Appeal", held on 27 November 2006, was rigged. The person who appeared to be calling in the competition was actually a Blue Peter Team Player who was visiting that day. The visitor pretended to be a caller from an outside line who had won the phone-in and the chance to select a prize. The competition was rigged due to a technical error with receiving the calls.[87]

Former editor Biddy Baxter, described as still being influential with the programme today, described the problem as an issue with a member of the production team on the studio floor and the Editor being oblivious to the situation in the studio gallery. She also went on to say that the programme would not feature premium rate telephone competitions in the future.[88]

It was announced on 16 May 2007 that Blue Peter's editor and unofficial historian, Richard Marson, stood down from his job, although any link to the controversy of March 2007 remains in doubt.

In July 2007, Blue Peter was given a £50,000 fine, by the Office of Communications (OFCOM) as a result of rigging the competition.[89]

Political partiality In August 2007 while the programme was off air for its annual Summer Expedition, long-time presenter Konnie Huq was involved in a press conference to promote the health benefits of cycling along with Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. The Conservative Party accused the BBC of political bias as a result of one of its employees appearing at what was construed as a pro-Labour Party event. The BBC claimed to have turned down the offer for Huq to appear, but this was unknown to both her and her agent.[90]

On 24 November 1988, Frank Ruse, a left-wing Labour councillor for Liverpool City Council, accompanied Liverpool's Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra to London for an appearance on Blue Peter.[91] He was given a Blue Peter badge and wore it proudly to his council meetings. However, he received a BBC headed letter requesting for the return of the badge. The letter (which was later discovered to be a forgery) stated that Blue Peter had been approached by Neil Kinnock's office (Labour leader at the time) who were alarmed that a councillor with hard-left views had been given a Blue Peter badge. On receiving the Blue Peter badge from Frank Ruse, the BBC wrote back to him stating that they had sent no such letter (therefore proving it was a hoax) and an angry Ruse started a local and national enquiry to find out who sent the hoax letter.[92]

"Socks" Blue Peter hit the headlines again with new breaches of trust in September 2007; an online vote on the BBC's Blue Peter official website took place to choose the name of the new Blue Peter kitten in January – the reported story was that instead of calling the cat Cookie, the name chosen by a majority of votes, the staff overruled the decision and called the kitten Socks due to problems with the voting system, and a large surge in the former name. As a result of bad media coverage the original cat, Socks, was joined by another kitten named Cookie to reflect the decision of those who participated in the online vote. The BBC broadcast an apology on 25 September 2007 at the start of the new series.[93]