Letter: Facts without soap

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The Independent Culture
Letter:

Facts without soap

Sir: By implying that we are elevating "thieves, drug addicts and even murderers" to celebrity status ("Prisoners to become stars of fly-on-cell- wall documentary", 31 August) you have misrepresented my contribution to the debate on docu-soaps at the Edinburgh Television Festival. My precise point was: we on Inside Story are not in the business of gratuitously glamorising serious subjects.

During the debate I was clarifying the definition of docu-soaps. As the producer of two docu-soaps, Cruise and Soho Stories, I am well aware of their popularity. But I was stressing that these are very different from my work on factual output, such as Inside Story, and reminding the debate that there is still a place for traditional documentary subjects about important issues of the day.

To illustrate my point, I spoke about the filming of a women's prison in Yorkshire. It is still early days; it was commissioned as an Inside Story, and might even become a series, but what it will not be is a soap opera trivialising people's lives. Months of hard work will hopefully result in a programme that significantly contributes to our understanding of the stresses and pressures that confront those living and working in a prison environment.

By using trusted documentary making techniques - gaining access to a women's prison and building relationships with contributors - we have a unique opportunity to show the audience some hard truths about Britain in the late 20th century.

CHRISTOPHER TERRILL

Senior Producer

Documentaries Department

BBC Production

London W12

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