Carlton faces heavy fine for documentary

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CARLTON TELEVISION is facing a six-figure fine from television regulators after an internal inquiry found that the channel's award-winning documentary, The Connection, was faked.

Carlton's report on the programme was published yesterday and has been handed to the Independent Television Commission, which will meet on 17 December to decide on a suitable punishment. The maximum fine could be pounds 8.3m. The biggest fine the ITC has imposed was pounds 500,000 against Granada because of illegal product placement in its This Morning programme.

Carlton's inquiry found that at least 11 major claims of the programme were "absolutely false". The inquiry was unable either to substantiate or prove false a number of other claims.

The key falsifications were: The Connection purported to show that a filmed smuggler had heroin in his stomach, which he did not; the smuggler's journey to the UK was presented as one trip filmed over 24 hours when in fact it was two journeys six months apart; the smuggler was supposed to be visiting the UK on behalf of the "Cali" drug cartel, when in fact his flight to the UK had been paid for on the director's credit card; that the programme claimed the smuggler got through Customs when he was, in fact, turned back.

There have also been claims that an interview conducted at a secret location was instead in the director's hotel room.

There is no precedent for a serious documentary being found out for falsifying claims, despite recent concerns that some "soap-documentaries" have re- created scenes for viewers.

Most of the blame is put on the director of The Connection, Marc de Beaufort. The report said it cannot prove Mr de Beaufort knew that supposed drug mules were paid actors, but he ought to have known. The inquiry team, comprising a QC and a former head of editorial policy at the BBC, also found that statements he made to the inquiry "troubled" them, but it does not conclude whether Mr de Beaufort was "a dupe or a villain".

Roger James, the head of documentaries at Carlton at the time of the programme, no longer works for the channel but is criticised in the inquiry for allowing the programme to go ahead when too much of it was not verifiable.