Steptoe drama 'misled viewers'

BBC vows to change biopic

The BBC has admitted that a drama about the stars of Steptoe And Son mislead viewers.

The corporation has now promised not to repeat The Curse of Steptoe in its existing form after upholding complaints from Harry H Corbett's family.

The brother of his late second wife, Maureen Blott, had claimed that the BBC Four biopic was inaccurate and unfair.

Today, the BBC's editorial complaints unit ruled that while most of the departures from ascertainable fact were ‘legitimate exercises of dramatic licence’, two specific complaints were valid.

Firstly, the watchdog said the drama had been wrong to suggest that Maureen’s relationship with Corbett preceded, and possibly contributed to, the breakdown of his first marriage to actress Sheila Steafel.

And it ruled that programme-makers were wrong to suggest Steptoe And Son came to an end because Corbett became a father and lost interest in the sitcom.

‘This was a dramatic device which had the legitimate intention of illustrating the change in Corbett's attitudes and priorities brought about by family life,’ said the complaints unit. ‘However, the two events were separated by eight years, so the device tended to mislead viewers significantly on an aspect of the narrative central to their interest in the drama.’

In its ruling, the watchdog promised that the BBC would ‘not re-broadcast the programme without appropriate editing’.

The Curse of Steptoe, starring Jason Isaacs and Phil Davis, first aired in March and attracted a then record audience of 1.4million viewers.

Published: 25 Nov 2008

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