Broadcasters in bid to regain trust after Queen documentary row

Broadcasters Channel 4 and Five announced plans today to “safeguard viewer trust” in the wake of the fallout over the BBC’s footage of the Queen.

Channel 4 and Five are co-authoring a handbook on best practice for all independent producers.

Five said it was reviewing its relationships with independent TV companies, as well as its contracts and processes “to ensure viewers can have total faith in the broadcaster”.

Channel 4 also announced new clearance procedures for promotional materials, after a clip shown to journalists of the Queen apparently storming out of a photoshoot got the BBC in trouble.

Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan said: “We are taking appropriate steps, in partnership with our suppliers, to ensure viewers are not misled by our programmes.

“I hope the plan of action we are publishing today makes clear how seriously Channel 4 takes the issue of trust and how determined we are to prevent our hard-won relationship with our viewers being undermined by careless or dishonest actions.”

Five chief executive Jane Lighting said: “The question of viewer trust is the most serious issue we face today. Our viewers, brand and reputation are the most valuable assets we have.

“We hope that these initiatives will help to rebuild the relationship of trust, which has been damaged by recent events, and that must exist between a broadcaster and its audience.”

The Independent Producers’ Handbook will be published in the autumn.

Channel 4 also said it would introduce new provisions in contracts obliging producers to ensure that programmes were not misleading and outlining sanctions the broadcaster could impose if rules were broken.

Independent TV company RDF caused outrage after a promotional clip of A Year with the Queen was edited to make it look as if the monarch had walked out of a photoshoot.

Since then, other TV programmes have also been exposed for deceiving viewers.

On Channel 4’s Born Survivor, it emerged that ex-SAS adventurer Bear Grylls stayed in lodges and hotels when he was supposed to be roughing it as a “real life Robinson Crusoe” trapped on a Hawaiian desert island.

Big Brother makers Endemol have admitted scenes from its channel Five series Killer Shark Live were actually pre-recorded.

Last week the BBC admitted faking six competitions, including prizes given away on Comic Relief and Children in Need.

The BBC and ITV have suspended commissioning from RDF, while Channel 4 and Five both said they saw no reason to do so.

Meanwhile, ITV executive chairman Michael Grade warned that the broadcaster would end its dealings with anyone found guilty of deceiving viewers.

Mr Grade announced the adoption of a new “zero tolerance” approach as he gave evidence to the Commons media select committee.

He told MPs that if any production company “is found to have deceived or lied to viewers, we won’t do business with them. It will be zero tolerance.

“If you want to work with me – one strike and you’re out.”

He went on: “It’s clear today that, although nowhere near the majority, there are enough people doing enough damage to bring broadcasting into disrepute.

“Whether it’s an epidemic, whether it’s endemic, I’m not sure. What I can do is make sure anyone who works for me, whether independent or in-house, knows there is a line that can’t be crossed.”

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