Channel 4 fails to win gagging order

Channel 4 has failed to win an injunction that would have prevented reporting of a High Court libel battle brought after the broadcaster was accused of faking elements of a documentary supposedly showing members of Michael Jackson’s family moving to Devon.

The station was looking to ban coverage of part of a case brought against it by Michael Jackson’s former bodyguard, Matt Fiddes, the Guardian has reported:

“Fiddes, 30, who used to act as Michael Jackson’s bodyguard during the star’s UK visits, claims elements of the programme were fabricated. He says he and Tito Jackson, one of Michael’s older brothers, contrived a publicity stunt pretending that the family were moving to the village of Appledore, near Bideford, in order to raise Tito’s profile.

“He then helped broker a £20,000 deal for Studio Lambert, a production company, to cover the move, and appeared in the programme as the Jacksons’ local guide.”

Fiddes’s barrister, David Sherborne, said if the order had been granted this would have set “a very dangerous precedent indeed”.

Channel 4 denied the allegation at the centre of the case and insisted the injunction move was motivated by concerns that reporting could influence a jury at trial.

The broadcaster issued a statement to the Guardian which said:

“This was not an attempt to gag the media in anyway. The temporary order sought was limited to the reporting of the hearing only because of concerns that previous inflammatory reporting would prejudice the fair hearing of the jury trial which has been set down for June. Channel 4 and its producers fully support the principle of open justice and welcome the fair and accurate reporting of these proceedings.

“Channel 4, Studio Lambert, and the producer, Jane Preston, completely refute these false allegations and are confident that they can and will demonstrate the honesty and truthfulness of this documentary at trial.”

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