BBC staff are being victimised over phone-ins, says union

BBC staff sacked for deceiving callers to phone-in programmes are being scapegoated by senior managers conducting a witch-hunt, according to insiders at the corporation. Junior workers have been disciplined while senior corporation managers who were aware of and sanctioned deceptions were not even being investigated, they claim.

The row follows the sacking of BBC 6 Music producer Leona McCambridge, who worked on Liz Kershaw's show. Ms McCambridge was sacked last week after admitting production staff posed as competition winners on pre-recorded programmes. Her dismissal followed a BBC-wide investigation into alleged fakery on TV and radio shows.

BBC 6 Music's head of programmes, Ric Blaxill, is also understood to have resigned, after two further cases of deception were revealed.

The revelations come in the week the BBC fired Richard Marson, a Blue Peter editor, when it was revealed that a poll to name the show's cat was faked. Callers chose the name Cookie, but the cat was given the name that came second in the poll – Socks – for reasons that have yet to be revealed.

Members of Bectu, the broadcasting union, have written to Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, to say they are "appalled" at the unfair treatment of their colleagues.

The letter, seen by The Independent on Sunday, said: "The singling out of particular networks and particular junior staff presents a deceptive picture to the public. The editorial failures – which we all condemn – were the result of a BBC-wide culture, created at the top and disseminated downwards. A culture in which fewer and fewer staff are expected to do more and more work, and junior staff are pressured by senior managers to compete and get results at all costs, regardless of the corners that have to be cut."

Luke Crawley, Bectu assistant general secretary, said yesterday that a Bectu member he represented had been made a scapegoat. "In one breath Mark Thompson is assuring us that there's not going to be a witch-hunt, and the next thing she is sacked. I don't know what kind of message the BBC thinks that it is sending to the public – that the junior members of staff take all the rap for things like this while the senior people get away with it."

The BBC declined to talk about individual cases. Ms McCambridge was unavailable for comment last night.

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