6 Dec 2010

BBC apologises for imposter MP and four-letter gaffes

The BBC incorrectly interviews someone posing as a Lib Dem MP, just hours after two BBC presenters say sorry for making the same embarrassing slip over the name of Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

A logo for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is seen at its Broadcasting House in central London. Reuters

Radio 4’s lunchtime news programme, the World at One, today broadcast a short interview with what it billed as the Edinburgh West MP Michael Crockart.

However, while Mr Crockart is a native Scot, the interviewee had a northern English accent. Earlier, someone claiming to be Mr Crockart – the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Scottish Secretary Michael Moore – had told London’s Evening Standard newspaper that he would resign over tuition fees.

A BBC spokeswoman apologised, saying the error occurred after a call to an incorrect number listed in the BBC’s directory of MPs’ contact details.

“The usual pre-broadcast questions were asked of the person concerned, who maintained throughout that he was Mr Crockart and appeared credible,” she said.

“Once the mistake was realised, steps were taken immediately to rectify the error and to ensure it was not repeated.” BBC spokeswoman

“Once the mistake was realised, steps were taken immediately to rectify the error and to ensure it was not repeated.”

The slip-up occurred just hours after James Naughtie, an anchor on Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, accidentally replaced the first letter of cabinet minister Mr Hunt’s surname with a “C”.

The on-air stumble just before 8am sent Mr Naughtie into a coughing fit, and attracted a slew of emails from listeners who were either amused or annoyed.

He later issued several apologies for his “Spoonerism” – a reference to Dr William Spooner who was notorious for inappropriately switching letters between words.

“Sometimes things happen in live broadcasting that you deeply regret,” Mr Naughtie said. “I hope that all those who were offended by what they heard realise it was completely unintentional.”

Posting on social networking site Twitter, Mr Hunt also made light of the incident. “They say prepare for anything before going on Today but that took the biscuit,” he wrote. “I was laughing as much as u Jim or shld I say Dr Spooner.”

And again

But presenter Andrew Marr repeated the mistake during the next Radio 4 show – the cultural discussion programme Start The Week.

When a conversation on philosophy turned to Freudian slips, the BBC’s ex-political editor promised he would not repeat his colleague’s mistake, before doing just that while trying to say “Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary”.

“I must apologise for saying it again but it’s just very hard to talk about it without saying it,” he said.

His error provoked embarrassed laughter from his guests – choreographer Matthew Bourne, dance writer Jennifer Homans, journalist David Aaronovitch and psychotherapist Jane Haynes.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “James and Andrew regret what happened and have both apologised for their verbal tangles on air.

“These instances involved a slip of the tongue during a live broadcast, and we apologise for any offence caused.”