BBC underfire for Shannon Matthews kidnap hoax drama plans

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by sarah
revell Critical: Simon Reevell

As Channel 4 cameras head to Teesside for the latest ‘poverty porn’ filming of the controversial reality show Benefits Street, the BBC is also under fire for plans to create a drama about Dewsbury kidnap hoax victim Shannon Matthews.

Speaking at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, writer Jeff Pope, who was behind hit blockbuster Philomena, also suggested award-winning actress Sheridan Smith could play the role of Shannon’s mother Karen.

Shannon was nine when she disappeared from her home in Dewsbury in February 2008.

But she was discovered 24 days later at the home of her stepfather’s uncle, Michael Donovan, less than a mile away, where she had been imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews hatched to claim a £50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

Matthews and Donovan were both jailed for eight years but were released after serving half their sentence.

The plans have drawn quick criticism from the Conservative MP for Dewsbury, Simon Reevell said: “I think it is right to ask whether the awful suffering of a child should be turned into ... entertainment and the BBC should think about whether this is the sort of programme they should want to commission.”

He said if the programme was accurate it should show the town in a good light as the community had united to try to find Shannon.

Pope said “It’s very early stages; it’s not been commissioned yet and the casting process hasn’t even begun.” It would be made for the BBC and created by ITV Studios.

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