'The Moorside' Producer Fiercly Defends Accusations Drama Was 'Entertainment'

Jeff Pope was speaking on BBC Radio 4's 'Front Row' programme.

George Bowden
Created by George Bowden
On Feb 8, 2017

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

There's a concern about how some tabloid papers and quite frankly television reality shows make daily prurient entertainment out of troubled families, like Shannon Matthews' family, in the end this ['The Moorside'] is a piece of entertainment. In the end people might ask 'what's really the difference?'

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

I would argue that 'The X Factor', 'The Voice' are entertainment shows. Entertain is just the wrong word. It's a factual programme.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

The grandparents called it entertainment.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

Well if they did, we haven't spoken to them, so it's not based on any conversation with us. Nor any knowledge on their part of what we're trying to do.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

Did you ask them for their opinion?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

No, we didn't.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

In the end, I suppose a lot of people, not just the family, would say that in the end this is TV drama out of real misery. It only happened nine years ago, Shannon was taken into care, she's just turned 18. Did you really have to make it now? Did you think about the effect on her?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

Absolutely, we spent a lot of time thinking about those issues. My feeling about the story is that any person, Shannon herself, is one click away from an unlimited amount of material relating to this story, a lot of it ill-informed, a lot of it one-sided... I think what this does is tell above all an accurate picture of what happened. Our feeling is that after the two episodes are transmitted there will be in existence a document that is factual.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

There's been reporting. Documentaries. People question why make an entertainment/drama. She's just 18. Really?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

You keep calling it an entertainment, I don't accept this is a piece of ephemeral, wave-riding...

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

Have you offered to show it to members of Shannon Matthew's family and others involved?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

We did have a screening for those charged with Shannon's care and thought that was a responsible thing to do.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

What did they say?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

That's going to remain between us and them. There are all sorts of issues there to do with confidentiality so I can't break that. We have shown it to Julian, to Natalie and to Christine Freeman. They were all happy with it and they understood it. Natalie Freeman said: 'This is our story'.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

In the end, do you feel any worries ethically about how Shannon will be feeling about having her life turned into a two-part TV drama.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

That is something that keeps us awake at night and that we think about constantly. We have tried to mitigate as far as possible any distress to Shannon. But we did feel strongly that at the end of this there is going to be a clear unbiased accurate version of what happened out there which will help understanding.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

You haven't spoken to her at all? She was the person at the heart of it.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

You couldn't possibly speak to Shannon.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

You've just said it's completely unbiased and accurate. But you haven't spoken to the women who is at the heart of it. So how can you say that?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

Because I have just said to you about five times that it isn't about Shannon.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

It is about Shannon, come on.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

Well, you're completely wrong, it isn't about Shannon. I think there is about less than ten seconds of Shannon Matthews, two long shots.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

Sure, she's not in it - her absence is obviously what it's about. But it's about her story, it's about her life.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

It's about the abduction of Shannon Matthews, if we spoke to Shannon Matthews what is it you'd like to ask her in my position then?

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

What happened? What was it like from your point of view?

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

OK. She was abducted and held [in] captivity - next question, what else are you going to ask her? I don't understand what it is you want from her? That's not part of the story I've told or wanted to tell.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

You've made a TV drama about the abduction of Shannon Matthews, but Shannon Matthews isn't in it, and you haven't spoken to her at all about her experience at that time - but you're saying it's "accurate and unbiased". I'm just saying I'm amazed that you would say that.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

It's called 'The Moorside', it's not called 'The Shannon Matthews Story'. I say again, it's about this thing that happens off-screen, which is this girl is abducted, and then it's all about the impact of that on this group of people.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

You've explained that really clearly Jeff, I just think when you told me you and your writers had sleepless nights about this it does imply that you're aware of a real ethical concern about the responsibility of making this programme which concerns a real living young woman.

Samira Ahmed

Samira Ahmed say

She wasn't consulted and presumably wouldn't have wanted this made.

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Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

Those sleepless nights resulted in us deciding not to have any scenes with Shannon in the piece, that we weren't going to go into detail of what happened whilst she was with Donovan, et cetera, et cetera.

Jeff Pope

Jeff Pope say

The accuracy of the piece and the unbiased thing refers to our starting position with regard to that estate. Not to sort of say this is an estate where nobody works and everybody's on social, and they all drink and smoke. And whatever the other lazy caricatures of that estate are.

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