The UK Culture Secretary has waded into a fresh battle with British broadcaster Channel 4, accusing producers of a reality TV show of filming actors instead of real people.
The Tower Block of Commons show, filmed in 2010, saw members of Parliament “leave behind the splendour of Westminster and their comfortable homes for eight days and nights to live in council tower blocks estates in some of Britain’s most deprived neighbourhoods.”
Nadine Dorries, then serving as a MP, appeared in the show herself, sharing a West London flat with sisters Rena and Renisha Spaine. The government’s secretary of state for culture since last year, she told a political committee on Thursday that the show used actors – something strongly denied by both the production company and other people who appeared in the show.
Dorries told MPs: “The parents of the boys in that programme actually came here to have lunch with me, and contacted me to tell me, actually, they were in acting school, and that they weren’t really living in a flat, and they weren’t real.
“And even, if you remember, there’s a pharmacist or somebody that I went to see who prepared food – she was also a paid actress as well.”
But her former co-star Rena Spaine told Sky News later:
“It was a blatant lie and she knows. I don’t know where she is getting that rubbish from.
“She was a nightmare, a different person when the camera was rolling. It has made me feel disgusting, stop telling lies about me.”
And Labour’s Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton where the show was filmed, said: “I was shocked to hear the claim that one of my favourite reality shows ever had been fabricated – a serious allegation if that is the case.
“I hope Nadine Dorries has not inaccurately described some of my constituents on the South Acton estate of being actors.
“This is one of the most deprived areas of west London, and the day-to-day struggles of people there are very real. If she has misled the committee, the secretary of state needs to correct this speedily.”
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “This is the first suggestion we have heard that viewers were misled about contributors on Tower Block of Commons.
“We will be contacting the secretary of state to seek further details so that we can investigate it thoroughly.”
A spokesman for Love Productions, who made the show for Channel 4, said: “We do not use actors to impersonate contributors in any of its documentary or constructed factual series.
“Nadine Dorries took part in the making of Tower Block of Commons for Channel 4 alongside other genuine contributors, and we are confident that her claims are unfounded.
“Nevertheless, we take the allegations seriously and will investigate thoroughly. We also await Nadine Dorries’ reply to Channel 4’s request for evidence to back up her comments.”
This disagreement follows Dorries’ recent announcement confirming plans to sell Channel 4, a state-owned broadcaster currently funded by advertising. This move has been strongly criticised across the British television industry.
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