Channel 4 has stepped in to defend its ‘deepfake’ version of the Queen’s Christmas Day speech after viewers threatened to ‘boycott’ the station for being ‘disrespectful’.
The artificially rendered version of the monarch will deliver Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message by offering a stark warning about misinformation and fake news.
The channel’s annual Christmas Day broadcast will appear to show the Queen, who will be played by actress Debra Stephenson, telling viewers: ‘On the BBC, I haven’t always been able to speak plainly and from the heart.
‘So, I am grateful to Channel 4 for giving me the opportunity to say whatever I like, without anyone putting words in my mouth.’
In a first-look clip, the fake Queen shares her thoughts on the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from the UK.
Channel 4 has come under fire from some viewers (Picture: Channel 4)
‘If there is a theme to my message today, it is trust, trust in what is genuine and what is not,’ she continued.
‘2020 has been a challenging year for us all, one thing that has sustained many of us is our families.
‘Which is why I was so saddened by the departure of Harry and Meghan.
‘There are few things more hurtful than someone telling you they prefer the company of Canadians.’
Since Channel 4 first shared the video online, some viewers branded the programme ‘disrespectful’ and many even threatened to boycott the TV station.
‘Channel 4 should be prosecuted for this. Boycott this channel. It’s against our heritage and culture. Treason,’ one tweeted.
Another commented: ‘Disgusting. Boycott channel 4.’
This is totally distasteful and out of order, you should be ashamed of mocking the Queen
— GaryP ?? (@Garfielduk) December 23, 2020
— Kay ?️⚧️?️? (@kay_1773) December 23, 2020
‘Just made my complaint to Channel 4. Ofcom tomorrow. I hope the Queen sues you,’ one raged.
While one added: ‘Wow. How disrespectful. Being in USA I love the queen. What a graceful lady. Dedicated her life to service of her people. Great respect. Channel 4 should be ashamed. How dare they have the audacity? They are a disgrace to UK. PEOPLE SHOULD BOYCOTT the channel.’
I’m fairly sure that this is illegal. Like defacing a coin.
Would be a great end to 2020 to see you lose your broadcasting licence.
— Jean-Claude Alibaba-Juancker (@JuanckersGhost) December 23, 2020
I’ve not been a fan of the royal family for a long time, but the way CH4 are doing this is utterly distasteful and downright diabolical.
CH4 aren’t attacking her for her deeds, they’re attacking her because she’s the head of state for a country CH4 despises.
— chrisdbarnett.eth ?? (@chrisdbarnett) December 23, 2020
Not everyone was upset by the clip, as many people branded it ‘hilarious’.
‘Snowflakes. Snowflakes everywhere getting outraged by this. I think it’s hilarious,’ one tweeted.
Another said: ‘How are so many people missing the point? The @Channel4 alt message has always pushed boundaries and sparked debate. They are not mocking her or just being funny. The whole point is to give a (light-hearted) warning about deepfake tech and I look forward to seeing it in full.’
While one added: ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Simple.’
The clip has come under fire with many branding it ‘disrespectful’ (Picture: Channel 4)
Deepfake technology has become increasingly prevalent over recent years and can be used to create convincing but completely manufactured video content of high-profile figures, most notably of former US president Barack Obama, who has been the subject of a number of deepfake videos.
The artificial rendering of the Queen, devised by special effects creatives at Framestore, was directed by William Bartlett, and Debra read a script written by James Kettle.
The Queen appears to share her thoughts on the departure of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from the UK. (Picture: Channel 4)
The end of the message shows the artificially created images flickering before disappearing to reveal the green screen used to manufacture images of Buckingham Palace and show it was in fact the Dead Ringers star playing the Queen.
Stepping into defend the clip, a spokesperson for Channel 4 told Metro.co.uk: ‘It is very clear in the four-minute film that this is a parody of the Christmas Day address and viewers will be left in no doubt that it is not real.
‘However, while the film is light-hearted, affectionate and comedic in tone, it carries a very important and timely message about trust and the ease with which convincing misinformation can be created and spread.
‘This is part of a series of programmes examining the spread of misinformation and a Dispatches documentary, Deepfakes: Can You Believe Your Eyes, will further explore the emergence of deepfake technology on 28th December on Channel 4.’
Queen Elizabeth II, with Prince Charles as she delivered the Christmas Day speech (Credits: AP)
Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message airs opposite the BBC’s broadcast of the Queen’s official annual televised message to the nation.
It has previously been delivered by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, actor Danny Dyer, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, children who survived the Grenfell Tower disaster, and The Simpsons.
Speaking about the sketch. Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4 began: ‘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.’
Director William added: ‘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 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.’
Metro.co.uk has reached out to Channel 4 for comment.
The Alternative Christmas Message will air on Channel 4 at 3.25pm on Christmas Day.