BBC seeks damages over hoax

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is backing legal action against The Sun after having to pull this weekend's episode of the religious affairs series Everyman because a reporter appears on the programme pretending to be a "sex addict".

The BBC is refusing to be embarrassed by The Sun's story, despite its commitment to tighten up on fake contributors after the Vanessa scandal. The daytime talk show was dropped after it was found that some contributors were actors, playing a role. The BBC said it had tightened up procedures for checking contributors' bona fides.

In the latest development Andrea Busfield, a Sun reporter, used her own name, but pretended to be a sex addict in order to appear on the programme.

Everyman's maker Planet Wild said yesterday that it will sue The Sun for breach of contract because the reporter had signed a contract which contained an "honesty" clause. The contract, introduced after the Vanessa affair, obliges contributors to give an "honest and truthful account" of their experiences and not to mislead the BBC about their identity. Planet Wild and the BBC are thought to be trying to recoup the pounds 50,000 cost of making the programme.

The episode was to air at 10.30pm on Sunday night on BBC 1 and to be called Everyman: Addicted to Love. Ms Busfield was one of three "sex addicts"on the programme.

A Sun spokesman said yesterday: "We decided to test the BBC's promises to the British public that standards would rise following the scandal of daytime TV. Our reporter Andrea Busfield has proved that those promises were worthless and that no lessons have been learned. Everyman is one of the most respected documentary programmes and yet they failed to make the most basic journalistic checks."

The BBC said that programme-makers also requested Ms Busfield's post to confirm her name, checked her name with Actor's Equity and the Spotlight register of actors and spoke to her friends.

Matthew Bannister, chief executive of BBC Production, which commissioned the programme, said yesterday: The Sun reporter systematically lied to get on to the programme and, because of her dishonesty, we have had to take this edition of Everyman out of the schedules."

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