BBC disciplines five staff over `Vanessa' impostors

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The Independent Online
THE BBC started disciplinary proceedings yesterday against five members of the production team behind The Vanessa Show after revelations that researchers had allegedly recruited bogus participants.

In an attempt to restore its credibility with viewers, the BBC announced that in addition it was reviewing the way research for similar shows will be carried out and was abandoning the practice of using entertainment agencies to provide guests, four of whom were revealed as being tailor- made impostors for Vanessa Feltz's beleaguered talk show.

The practice of recruiting performers to fulfil a specific format was revealed earlier this week and a host of impostor guests, entertainment agencies and fake audience members have come forward saying they duped not only the BBC but also rival ITV production, Trisha, whose production team has been "duped" at least twice.

Last night a BBC spokeswoman confirmed that five people were being "invited for formal disciplinary interviews" after an inquiry led by Anne Morrison, head of features and events.

She declined to say whether the five included the two producers and a researcher who had been sent home from work.

The BBC said: "The BBC has now concluded its fact-finding interviews with the 28 members of the editorial staff of The Vanessa Show production team. Five will be invited for formal disciplinary interviews to take place next week.

"It's not disputed that there has been limited use of entertainment agencies to book guests for the programme, a practice which the BBC finds totally unacceptable.

"It is clear, as has been stated from the outset, that Vanessa Feltz knew nothing of the practice.

"However, all of the staff interviewed deny colluding with entertainment agencies to book fake guests. Since the allegation of collusion was central to The Mirror's story we have approached The Mirror and asked for a copy of the tape of the alleged conversation between the researcher and the agent involved, together with any other information they have. We believe this is essential to aid the investigation."

But even as the BBC announced its review and pledge of integrity, yesterday saw The Vanessa Show feature, according to The Mirror, another suspect guest known as "Colin" who appeared on Kilroy on Thursday as a father concerned about explaining the facts of life to his eight-year-old son and on The Vanessa Show yesterday as an incurable romantic.