ITV says its threat of legal action forced Channel 4 to alter the content of its controversial Dispatches programme which exposed various Coronation Street stars promoting a fake brand on Twitter.
“We took legal steps which resulted in Dispatches making changes to its final programme. A number of the most serious and defamatory allegations against those featured were not broadcast,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
“If any Coronation Street viewers happened to be watching the last part of this hour long special they would have seen it for what it was – a stunt.”
ITV declined to say which aspects of the programme were changed but the punchy statement is aimed to put C4 on the back foot.
Prior to Monday’s broadcast, ITV had sent Channel 4 a legal letter warning the company that its Dispatches investigation, which claims to expose Coronation Street actors for promoting a fake product via social media, is potentially defamatory.
Coronation Street actresses Brooke Vincent, Cherylee Houston and Krissi Bohn tweeted about the product called Puttana Aziendale and were offered the fake company’s skin products and healing bracelets at a corporate event in Manchester earlier this year.
Former Coronation Street actress Shobna Gulati, who played Sunita Alahan, was also one of those to fall for the prank, it has emerged. She was photographed with a shopping bag at the fake event in Manchester in February.
Unbeknownst to them, the soap stars were part of a sting by Chanel 4’s Dispatches. The product’s name in Italian means Corporate Whore.
A Channel 4 spokesman played down the impact of ITV’s threats on the finished programme.
He said: “We firmly stand by our journalism. It is worth noting that our investigation did not set out to target any specific celebrity or broadcaster. As ever, we followed the journalistic trail. Standard right to reply procedures were followed but no substantial editorial changes were made to the structure of the programme.“