08/02/2017 13:00 GMT | Updated 09/02/2017 10:45 GMT

Shannon Matthews Not Exploited For Entertainment, 'The Moorside' Producer Says

'You couldn't possibly speak to Shannon.'

West Yorkshire Police/PA Archive
Undated police handouts of Shannon Matthews, left and mother Karen, right

An executive producer of ‘The Moorside’ has strongly denied the BBC drama exploited its subject Shannon Matthews for “entertainment”.

Jeff Pope defended the programme against critics, including Shannon’s grandparents, telling Radio 4’s Front Row: “It’s called ‘The Moorside’, it’s not called ‘The Shannon Matthews Story’.”

Sheridan Smith plays Karen Matthews best friend Julie Bushby in 'The Moorside' drama

Pope claimed he and his writers had been “kept awake at night” over ethical concerns surrounding the dramatisation of the story of Shannon’s kidnapping and imprisonment, and her mother Karen Matthews’ involvement.

But in a heated exchange, presenter Samira Ahmed expressed incredulity that Pope had not attempted to consult Shannon over the two-part series.

Read the transcript, below.

Shannon’s grandparents told The Mail on Sunday that her kidnapping “isn’t entertainment.” 

June and Gordon Matthews said: “It’s real life and it hasn’t even been ten years since it happened.”

Shannon has been in care since the incident in 2008. She turned 18 last year.

But not everyone agreed the drama exploited her story.

Novelist Linda Grant questioned the focus of Ahmed’s interview - saying ‘The Moorside’ quite clearly chronicles the community, not Shannon’s story.

Screen writer Ming Ho also agreed the drama was not about Shannon.

‘The Moorside’, named after the estate in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where Matthews and her family lived, features Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan as Shannon’s mother Karen and Funny Girl star Sheridan Smith as her friend Julie Bushby.

It focusses on the search for the missing nine-year-old and the friendship between Karen Matthews and Bushby, who continued to stand by her throughout her trial.

Responding to the controversy over the documentary, a spokesperson for BBC said: “This drama is not focused on Shannon Matthews herself. Her abduction is not portrayed, nor are her experiences during the time she was missing.

“The drama tells the story of the women who led the campaign to find her.”

The next episode of ‘The Moorside’ airs on BBC One on 14 February.