Channel 4 documents cocaine use at BBC

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The Independent Online

Some subjects have long been off-limits on television: the fact that some broadcasters have enjoyed taking cocaine is one of them. The fear was that any TV company casting the first stone would be met by a hail of rocks coming in the opposite direction.

That is all about to change: next month, Channel 4 is to broadcast Snorting Coke With The BBC, an hour-long documentary looking at the way the drug has been used by some BBC presenters - and how the corporation has dealt with them.

The programme will focus on four celebrities, all of whom have been exposed in the press as having used cocaine: Frank Bough, Angus Deayton, Johnnie Walker and Richard Bacon.

The show will look at the different treatment meted out to them by the BBC when the fact that they had taken the drug was exposed. Bough, the first to be outed as having taken cocaine, in 1988, was fired; Deayton, the most recent, though removed from presenting Have I Got News For You, was back working for the BBC within weeks of his sacking.

A spokesman for Channel 4 denied the programme was an attack on the BBC. "This is not a knocking story. It talks about how the world has changed, and how the media, and society in general, has become more flexible when it comes to the issue of drug taking."

The BBC, which privately is unhappy at being singled out for attack, none the less decided to co-operate.

In the programme, the BBC1 controller, Lorraine Heggessey, says: "As far as children's presenters are concerned, it is a no tolerance policy." But, she adds: "The reality is that people will take drugs ... I think the viewing public is well aware of that."