After being subjected to much campaigning, the BBC has now started using 03xx numbers for viewers and listeners to make contact. 03xx numbers are charged at no greater rate than that for calling a "geographic" (01/02) number. This applies (by regulation and as seen in practice) to all types of telephone service and all tariffs, including the terms of inclusive packages.
BBC 0870 numbers have been changed to their 0370 equivalent, although it still has many 0845 numbers that need to be changed to 0345.
A major breakthrough was seen yesterday with "Question Time" as shown below:
THIS MUST SERVE AS AN EXCELLANT EXAMPLE TO ALL OTHER PUBLIC SERVICE PROVIDERS
(A new 0330 number had to be chosen in this case, because it is only 0870 and 0845 that have the direct equivalent 03xx numbers available.)
(N.B. See the UPDATE to the points which follow - 22 Jan 2012)
Some more work to do
The explanatory text in the new caption may be factually correct, but it is seriously misleading.
1. "Standard geographic charges apply"
That is sufficient.
2. "... and calls may not be included in your telecom provider's call package."
If geographic calls are included in a call package then calls to 03 numbers must be also. Obviously geographic calls may not be included, in which case 03 calls will not be. The statement is true, but is it relevant?
3. "Calls from mobiles may be higher."
The rule that the charge for a call to a 03 number can be no greater than that for a standard geographic number ("geographic charges apply") applies to all telephone services, including mobiles. Charges for calls from mobiles are known to generally be higher than those from landlines. The statement is true, but is it relevant?
The second and third statements are true for both 03 and geographic numbers. Presented as they are, it would not be immediately obvious that they apply equally to geographic numbers. Viewers may well be led to believe that these statements qualify the initial statement, rather than simply adding general information. For this reason they are seriously misleading.
I have proposed the following alternative to the BBC:
"standard geographic charges apply to all tariffs and types of telephone service".
If it wishes to add "call charges vary", then it could.