MP writing to Netflix over Baby Reindeer evidence

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Jessica Gunning played the stalker Martha in the hit show Baby Reindeer

By Katie Razzall
Culture and media editor

John Nicolson MP will ask Netflix to substantiate what it told a Parliamentary committee about the woman alleged to have inspired the character Martha from the hit show Baby Reindeer.

Giving evidence before the Culture Media and Sport Committee last week, Netflix executive Benjamin King said the show was “obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker”.

But Nicolson believes the evidence Netflix gave may have been inaccurate.

Knowingly misleading a committee is a contempt of Parliament.

The SNP MP told the BBC “it’s clear that the evidence given by Netflix to the select committee is disputed”.

He added that “the charge made – of a conviction – is very important. Journalists can find no evidence to back up the Netflix claim”.

Fiona Harvey has identified herself as the woman portrayed as Martha the stalker in the series. Neither Netflix or Richard Gadd has confirmed this.

John Nicolson MP told the BBC “it’s clear that the evidence given by Netflix to the Select Committee is disputed”

Harvey says she has not been convicted of stalking and denied stalking Richard Gadd.

Mr Nicolson said “I will be writing to Netflix to ask them to substantiate the claim they made.”

Baby Reindeer has been watched by 65 million people worldwide. It is a dramatised account of the stalking its writer and star, Richard Gadd, says he suffered. He’s since talked about the programme telling his “emotional truth”.

In its opening episode, the show claims “This is a true story”.

Baby Reindeer’s popularity immediately led internet sleuths to hunt the “real figures” behind the fictional characters.

After Ms Harvey was named, she appeared in a lengthy interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored and described the “absolutely horrendous” situation she finds herself in as a result of the programme.

Fiona Harvey, who identified herself as the woman alleged to have inspired the character Martha, told Piers Morgan she had not stalked Richard Gadd

So far, no evidence has been produced that she has a conviction. It has been reported that a writ was filed against her more than 20 years ago in a Scottish court by a lawyer who accused her of harassment. On Piers Morgan, Harvey claimed that never proceeded further. She denied harassment.

Apart from the evidence to the Committee, Netflix has not made any comment since the controversy erupted.

Piers Morgan also has questions to answer about his decision to interview Fiona Harvey. She is reported to have said she feels “used”.

On BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show, Piers Morgan told me they “had to think long and hard about the public interest justification in giving her the platform”, if she was a convicted stalker who had gone to prison.

But he felt it was justified because “I felt there was enough of a question mark surrounding that part of the story”.

“She is emphatic that there was no court case. There was no conviction. She certainly never pled guilty, she says, and there was no prison sentence.”

He says the framing of Martha in Baby Reindeer as a stalker who goes to prison is a “serious failure by Netflix” as “nobody’s found any evidence whatsoever that she has any criminal record, let alone for anything to do with Richard Gadd.”

Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd has asked viewers to stop speculating about the identity of the real-life stalker

Chris Banatvala, former head of standards at Ofcom told The Media Show there is “a duty of care” whenever you make a programme dealing with potentially vulnerable people, “whether that’s Richard Gadd or Fiona Harvey”.

“Has she been portrayed in a way that is unfair to her… did she or did she not go to prison?”

He pointed out, for now, the streamer is not governed by Ofcom regulatory codes.

“In traditional broadcasting, there’s a very good set of rules around fairness, what you can and can’t do”.

The Doctor Who writer, Russell T Davies, said the BBC’s editorial compliance processes would have been “much stricter”. Writing in The Times, he said “compliance and editorial policy drives us mad here but I sleep at night”.

In his evidence to MPs, King said in making the show, Netflix had taken “every reasonable precaution in disguising the real-life identities of the people involved in that story”.

Ms Harvey disputed that when she spoke to Morgan in an interview that has been watched more than 11 million times.

She has since said she was paid £250 by the programme and now wants £1 million.

Morgan told the BBC that “she’s not going to get a million pounds from me, no… there’s no question about that”.

Piers Morgan has rejected claims that he had exploited Fiona Harvey, when she appeared on his YouTube show

He added the show had also paid “for her to have a very nice expensive haircut and we got a very nice car to bring her to and from her home. So I think we treated her extremely reasonably and fairly.”

He also hit back at claims that his interview was done in the interests of gaining hits above anything else.

“As to the question of whether I should feel regretful that it’s been successful, I find that a very perverse charge to make”.

Netflix has been approached for comment.

6 days ago20 April


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