Title The primrose path: faking UK television documentary, "docuglitz" and docusoap
Author Brian Winston
Issue Issue 8, 1999.
In the UK there is, currently, a newspaper panic about documentary "fakery" paradoxically taking place at the same time as documentary on television is enjoying unparalleled popularity in the form of 'docu-soaps'. Forced by the TV commissioning system to be evermore sensationalist, a number of independent documentarists have been caught in barefaced fictional shooting. But press hysteria has confused this with other, perfectly legitimate, forms of intervention and reconstruction practices. As a result British TV regulators have been slapping huge fines on the TV companies. Documentarists, of course, must not lie but a virtual new tort of "abusing public trust" has been concocted to combat this. However this "abuse of public trust" is an unacceptable limitation on the basic principle of free expression. The UK TV industry has been strangely quiescent in defending itself as if this attack on documentary serves, by contrast, to legitimate all other non-fictional output (i.e. the news) as being untainted by "fakery".