Belfast Telegraph

ITV defends The Secret as families of victims step up criticism

By Cate McCurry

ITV has defended controversial drama The Secret after it again came under fire from the victims' families.

A nephew of murder victim Trevor Buchanan questioned whether the show's profits justified the suffering endured by relatives.

Stuart Buchanan hit out after the third episode of the four-part series aired on Friday night.

However, ITV insisted it handled the broadcast "responsibly".

More than 330,000 people in Northern Ireland tuned in on Friday to watch The Secret -some 10,000 viewers down from the previous episode.

The thriller dramatises the 1991 murders of Trevor Buchanan and Lesley Howell at the hands of their spouses, Sunday school teacher Hazel Buchanan and dentist Colin Howell, who were having an affair.

The third episode focused on the sex lives of lovers Howell and Stewart in which Jimmy Nesbitt's character drugged his guilt-ridden mistress before sex.

Stuart Buchanan has been strongly critical of the ITV show and in his latest tweet, the Co Down man posted: "Worth considering if £ benefits of #TheSecret to @itv et al justify suffering of victims' families."

In an earlier tweet, he said: "An approximate truth will always be partial, distorted & incomplete. Good enough truth is not good enough #TheSecret."

However, a spokeswoman for ITV said they have never suggested that the families "approve or authorise" the drama.

"ITV has a proud record of broadcasting award-winning factual dramas, based on or representing real events and people," she said.

"The scripts for The Secret were based on an exhaustively researched book by a highly respected journalist as well as extensive additional research.

"The programme makers informed the families of the production, and gave them the opportunity to see the series prior to broadcast.

"We have never suggested that they approved or authorised the drama.

"We do believe that we have conducted the making and broadcast of this series responsibly, in seeking to minimise distress to family members."

Stuart Buchanan has also backed Lauren Bradford, Colin Howell's daughter, who has become a vocal critic of the show.

Writing in The Guardian, Ms Bradford, who now lives in Sheffield, said: "Behind the high viewing figures... there are people living with murder bereavement on a daily basis.

"An intrusive media experience can often compound this original trauma. If deemed 'a good enough story', private grief then becomes public property."

She contacted Labour MP Louise Haigh and complained that the drama had left affected people feeling exploited.

Even David Cameron has been drawn into the furore. On Wednesday during Prime Minister's Questions, Ms Haigh called on Mr Cameron to ensure that regulation could be strengthened to protect the families of victims.

Mr Cameron said: "I will discuss this case with the Culture Secretary and see if there is anything else other than the conversations that she has already had with ITV and with Ofcom, whether there is anything more that can be done."

Belfast Telegraph


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