C4 cleared of fake documentary claim

Channel 4 did not fake a documentary about arms dealing on British streets, the Independent Television Commission said yesterday - dismissing allegations against the programme made in The Guardian.

Channel 4 did not fake a documentary about arms dealing on British streets, the Independent Television Commission said yesterday - dismissing allegations against the programme made in The Guardian.

Guardian journalists had claimed in a front page story that Undercover Britain: Guns on the Street, broadcast in March 1996, had included fabricated scenes in Moss Side where reporters were shown buying a shotgun from two local gangsters.

"In the ITC's view, there is no significant doubt that the secretly filmed sequences involving the gun dealer and his associate were genuine," the Commission said. "This is confirmed by the rushes."

It was also alleged that the programme represented a farm mechanic with no previous record as a professional reactivator of illegal weapons.

"The programme led directly to the arrest, prosecution and seven-year prison sentence of the man who recommissioned an Uzi weapon for the undercover reporters," the ITC said. "Any suggestion that the programme had led to a wrongful conviction would be a very serious matter. However the ITC is satisfied - like the trial judge who also considered the matter - that this is not the case."

"Channel 4 recognises that The Guardian has a legitimate interest in investigating alleged programme fakery," Channel 4's chairman, Vanni Treves, said, "but it must now accept its claim that Guns on the Street was faked in key parts is without foundation."

The ITC did, however, acknowledge that The Guardian was correct in pointing out that one of the reporters on the programme had criminal convictions - a fact that did not appear to be known to Channel 4, and was not mentioned in the documentary, which was made by the independent company Rat Fitzwalter Associates.

In December 1998 the ITC imposed a financial penalty of £2m on Central Television for faked scenes in the documentary The Connection, and in January this year Channel 4 was fined £150,000 for unlabelled reconstructions in an investigative programme.

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