Nadine Dorries’ claim that a Channel 4 reality show she appeared on used paid actors is “unfounded”, according to the production company that made the show.
The culture secretary told parliament on Thursday that she believes the 2010 show Tower Block of Commons, in which she was one of a number of MPs who went to live in deprived communities, used paid actors to play supposedly real people.
Her claim is of deep concern to Channel 4 as Dorries is currently trying to push through the privatisation of the state-owned but commercially funded broadcaster. Any suggestion that a show she appeared on might have been faked could have severe consequences for the broadcaster’s future.
Dorries told the culture select committee on Thursday that she thought the show had hired paid actors for the programme. On the reality show Dorries was sent to live in South Acton estate in west London, sparking a minor scandal when the MP was revealed to have smuggled in a £50 note, which she claimed was intended to buy gifts for the children of her hosts.
She told parliament she believed the hosts were planted by the show’s producers.
“I discovered later, they were actually actors,” she 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.”
Love Productions, which made the programme and also makes The Great British Bake Off, said it believed her allegation was false but pledged to investigate if the culture secretary had any evidence.
A spokesperson said: “Love Productions does 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.”
Dorries told parliament that Channel 4 would be privatised, despite widespread opposition from the media industry.
Channel 4 has also pushed back hard on some of her other evidence to the select committee, including her claim that the broadcaster is not invested in the government’s levelling up programme and her suggestion Channel 5 spends more on regional commissioning.