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BBC taken for ride by wrong on-air guest

Network admits its presumed Internet expert was ... a cabbie
/ Source: The Associated Press

The BBC has admitted it was taken for a ride by a cabbie.

The network has apologized to its viewers for a studio mix up that resulted in a cab driver appearing on live television as an expert on Internet music downloads.

“We interviewed the wrong person,” a British Broadcasting Corp. spokeswoman said Monday while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with company policy. “We apologize to viewers for any confusion.”

The case of mistaken identity occurred May 8 — the day Britain’s High Court awarded Apple Computer a victory in a lawsuit against Apple Corps, the Beatles’ commercial arm.

In a reaction story to the verdict that is now circulating widely on the Internet, consumer affairs correspondent Karen Bowerman welcomed who the BBC thought was computer expert Guy Kewney.

As Bowerman introduced him, there’s a moment when the still unidentified driver realized the mistake. He scrunched his face into a grimace, and in panic tried to open his mouth as if to explain.

“Were you surprised by this verdict today?” Bowerman asked.

“I’m very surprised to see the verdict come on me because I was not expecting that,” he said in a heavy French accent, blinking in the studio lights. “When I came, they told me something else.”

Growing more confident, he gamely went on to deliver his opinion on the future of music downloads following the landmark verdict.

Meanwhile, the real Kewney, who was waiting to be taken to the studio, looked up on a monitor and found another man ensconced in the interviewee’s chair.

“What would you feel, if while you were sitting in that rather chilly reception area, you suddenly saw yourself not sitting in reception, but live, on TV? A bit surprised?” Kewney wrote on his blog.

Kewney said he was amused at first — but then considered that viewers would think he did not know his subject, hurting his reputation.

Though the BBC did not elaborate on how the mistake occurred, Kewney wrote that a studio manager, “wringing his hands as if he wanted to suddenly take the day off,” had called the reception area — rather than the stage door — and was told that Kewney was there.

Producers apparently realized by the end of the interview that something had gone wrong — and, after they had gone off the air, asked the cabbie if there was a problem.

“He said: ‘Well, it was OK, but I was a bit rushed,”’ Kewney wrote on his blog.