BBC deceived children over Socks the kitten

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LONDON, Sep 21 (Reuters) Producers of the flagship BBC children's programme ''Blue Peter'' deceived thousands of young viewers for a second time in a year by ignoring their votes to choose a name for the show's kitten, the BBC said.

In the latest in a series of ''fake TV'' admissions that has rocked the broadcaster, producers asked children to help name the cat in an online vote, only to ignore the result without telling the audience.

The winning name was Cookie. However, the show's production team picked Socks instead because it ''was deemed to be a more suitable name for a kitten'', the BBC said in a statement yesterday.

''Blue Peter is to introduce a further kitten to the programme next week who will be given the name ''Cookie'' as voted for by viewers,'' it said. ''Socks will also remain on the team.'' Media regulator Ofcom fined the BBC 50,000 pounds in July over a faked phone-in contest on ''Blue Peter'', one of its longest running programmes.

The BBC apologised to the Queen earlier this year for implying in a documentary trailer that she had stormed out of a photo-shoot with celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said he had taken ''tough and vigorous'' measures to improve standards at the corporation.

''I would like to repeat my apology to viewers and listeners who were misled by these editorial lapses,'' he said. ''The BBC has taken a wide range of actions in recent months to strengthen our editorial guidelines and processes.'' He revealed details of four more ''serious editorial breaches'', including the Blue Peter cat vote, that were uncovered in a review of the BBC's output.

* Tom Robinson's radio show on BBC 6 Music: Producers made up the name of a winner of a text-message quiz to win tickets for a concert * Clare McDonnell Show on BBC 6 Music: Competition winners' names were made up because of a lack of entries. Some genuine winning entrants were ignored because they had won before * Film Cafe on the BBC Asian Network: An audience vote on a Bollywood programme was overruled because the winner was unavailable for interview.

The BBC said a number of disciplinary hearings had begun.

''Blue Peter'' presenters are due to apologise to viewers next week.

REUTERS JK BST0848

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