C4 admits new fake and bars film's producer

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CHANNEL 4 has admitted that a documentary aired in 1997 contained scenes where film-makers posed as clients picking up rent boys.

Marie Devine, the producer of Too Much Too Young: Chickens, has admitted lying to Channel 4 about her programme in a case which will further undermine the credibility of television documentaries. She has been banned from working for the channel again.

Following the revelation that ITV's award-winning drug documentary The Connection was faked, Carlton Television was fined pounds 2m by the Independent Television Commission. The ITC said yesterday that it was now investigating Chickens, but refused to comment on whether the channel may be fined.

Channel 4 is also investigating allegations against another, unnamed, documentary. There is growing speculation that senior Channel 4 executives may be forced to resign if the reports are found to be true.

Chickens, made by an independent producer, Basement Productions, was aired in 1997 as a part of a season of films by first-time directors and producers. It claimed to have secretly filmed footage of clients approaching boys on the streets of Glasgow. In fact, the clients were members of the film crew. In one scene, the programme claimed to show a man pulling up in a family car on a road in Kelvingrove Park. The man supposedly paid an 18-year-old known as Kammy pounds 20 for oral sex.

The programme made headlines in Scotland when it was broadcast in April 1997 because of claims by the boys that television celebrities and footballers had paid them for sex.

The faked footage was exposed by a researcher who worked on the programme, Peter McGraith, on Radio 5 Live's Parris on TV programme. Channel 4 initially denied the allegations when they emerged in November, but after further questioning of Ms Devine by its lawyers last month, she admitted that scenes had been faked.

The revelation comes at a bad time for the channel. It is currently in dispute with Nottingham city council which is trying to block the broadcast of a film, Staying Lost, about children in its care. The council says the film-makers encouraged a young girl to pretend to be a prostitute and that they paid children to appear in the film.

Channel 4 is standing by its producer and plans to fight the council in court.

Tim Gardam, the channel's director of programmes, issued a statement yesterday placing the blame over Chickens on Ms Devine.

He said: "Our procedures are robust, but no procedures are proof against deliberate and organised deception. The way in which the scenes were set up is an unacceptable breach of trust with the audience and Channel 4."

Last September, the channel was forced to halt the screening of a programme, Daddy's Girl, when officials discovered they had been hoaxed by a couple pretending to be father and daughter.

Because of the concerns over faked documentaries, Channel 4 has issued guidelines for producers working on investigative and observational programmes. It is also planning a series of seminars for producers and directors in which it will remind them of their ethical and regulatory responsibilities.




The most high-profile piece of fakery so far cost Carlton Television a pounds 2m fine from the television regulator. The film claimed to show a drug smuggler swallowing heroin and flying into Britain. In fact, his plane tickets were bought by the director and it was claimed he swallowed nothing more harmful than mints.



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Three of the characters had been in a previous documentary made by the producer.

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