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Ofcom won't take action against Channel 4 for 'deepfake' version of Queen's Christmas message

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read

Watch: Channel 4 creates ‘deepfake’ version of Queen for alternative Christmas message

No action will be taken against Channel 4 by Ofcom over the ‘deepfake’ version of the Queen used in an alternative Christmas message at the end of 2020.

Channel 4 plays an annual alternative to the Queen’s message but usually uses a celebrity or key public figure to deliver their own take on the year.

However in 2020, they decided to create a version of Her Majesty using ‘deepfake’ technology, intending to send a warning about the advancement in technology which is “enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age”.

But seeing the Queen dancing around on her palace desk led to Ofcom, the broadcast watchdog, receiving 354 complaints, with viewers saying it was disrespectful.

After assessing the complaints, an Ofcom spokesperson said: “We assessed complaints from viewers who felt that this programme was disrespectful to the Queen.

“In our view, Channel 4 made clear that the images were deliberately manipulated as a device to question societal trust in what we see online. We also consider that the satirical tone of the film was in keeping with audience expectations of this broadcaster.”

Alternative Christmas Message 2020 [DEEPFAKE]
Channel 4 used deepfake technology for their annual Christmas alternative message. (Channel 4)

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Announcing the deepfake, Channel 4 director of programmes Ian Katz said:Deepfake technology is the frightening new frontier in the battle between misinformation and truth.

“This year’s Alternative Christmas Address – seemingly delivered by one of the most familiar and trusted figures in the nation – is a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes.”

William Bartlett, the film’s director said: “This was a great project to be asked to direct. Deepfake is an interesting spin off from the recent advances made in machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence] and while it is a powerful new technique for image makers everywhere it is also a tool that can be used to misrepresent and deceive.

“With Channel 4 we wanted to create a sequence that is hopefully entertaining enough that it will be seen by a lot of people and thereby spreads the very real message that images cannot always be trusted.”

Alternative Christmas Message 2020  [DEEPFAKE]
The message addressed controversies like Prince Andrew. (Channel 4)
Alternative Christmas Message 2020 [DEEPFAKE]
The deepfake Queen also did a Tiktok dance. (Channel 4)

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In the real Christmas message, the Queen shared the emotions of the nation as she sympathised with Britons who had to spend the season alone.

She said: “Of course, for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand.

“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”

Watch: Queen’s Christmas message: ‘You are not alone’