BBC Lottery quiz show embroiled in new ‘fake’ row - Thursday 1st of May 2008

The BBC was at the centre of another TV fakery row last night over its flagship Saturday night National Lottery quiz show.

Viewers of 1vs100 are given the impression contestants are picked randomly from hopefuls in the studio to compete for prizes of up to £100,000.

But a Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered BBC producers routinely select players before the programme begins.

The first contestant in the latest series, which began on April 19, has now been on six different quiz shows in the past seven years, winning prizes worth a total of more than £20,000.

Dennis Powell, a 41-year-old supermarket manager from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, has appeared on BBC shows The Weakest Link, National Lottery: Jet Set and Beg Borrow Or Steal; Sky Ones Are You Smarter Than A 10-Year-Old; and Channel 4s Deal Or No Deal. The latter is made by Endemol, which also makes 1vs100.

TV experts say Mr Powell was chosen because he is bright, lively and makes good telly – qualities television producers value highly.

Other contestants on the show, hosted by Ben Shephard, reacted angrily, saying they believed they had been "duped" by the BBC.

Jane Allen, the director of the British Quiz Association, said: "Members who took part in the show all believed they had a fair and equal chance of being chosen.

"Its a pity so many production companies treat members of the public in such a shoddy and inconsiderate manner."

One contestant, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "We all thought we were in with a chance of winning something. We gave up our time to go on the show."

The row comes after a year of soul-searching by the television industry which began when this newspaper revealed viewers were asked to make £1 phone calls to enter the You Say, We Pay quiz on the Richard & Judy show even though contestants had already been chosen.

Culture select committee chairman John Whittingdale said: "Given the damage that has been done to viewers confidence and trust in the integrity of British broadcasting, I think producers have to be absolutely rigorous and ensure that they are not misleading viewers.

"There is a danger here that viewers and contestants will be misled. They [the BBC] may not say its random but they need to be careful not to give an impression that it is."

The latest series of 1vs100 started two weeks ago, with nearly 4.8million viewers tuning in to watch the quiz and the National Lottery draw.

The show began with Ben Shephard telling the audience: "So, everyone here wants to play, but whos going to be the first One to take on the 100 tonight? Lets find out."

Lights flashed rapidly around the 100 contestants until a spotlight shone on Mr Powell and he put his head in his hands in shock.

While the BBC has admitted selecting contestants before the show begins, the players were not aware they had been chosen.

Mr Powell and his 100 competitors were given questions with three multiple choice answers. If one of the 100 answers incorrectly, they are eliminated and the One collects £1,000 – but he has to beat all 100 to walk off with the prize money.

The supermarket manager managed to beat 93 of his 100 competitors but went home with nothing after picking the wrong answer to a question about Marilyn Monroe.

He said: "I had no idea I was going to be picked on 1vs100.

"I guess its random, I dont know how they work these things out, whether its a computer or somebody says he looks like he might be a good guy.

"In the current climate, I think it would be pretty dodgy, if somebody had said to me, Act surprised, were going to pick you.

"My reaction of putting my head in my hands was because I was shocked, the chances of being selected are one in 100."

Producers asked him to re-shoot the moment he was picked three times as they decided he had not looked shocked enough.

A TV source said: "If the producers had used him before, they know who he is, they know hes not going to freeze.

"They know hes bright enough to get some questions right and that hes got a lively personality. Thats what makes good TV."

A spokeswoman for the BBC and Endemol confirmed Mr Powells chances of being picked were considerably greater than one in 100.

She said: "In common with other entertainment shows, contestants who have applied to take part in 1vs100 are selected to ensure a diverse group of people have the opportunity to play.

"At no point do we say the selection process is random. Contestants themselves do not know if they are going to play until the spotlight falls on them."

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