Jacko Documentary Libel Claim Dropped
A martial arts expert who claimed to have worked as Michael Jackson’s bodyguard has dropped a libel writ against Channel 4 that claimed it faked a documentary about the late star’s parents.
Channel 4 chief Julian Bellamy said he’s delighted that “this unmeritorious claim” has been discontinued, although not before the TV station spent £1.7 million on its legal defense.
The case was brought by Matt Fiddes, who was seen working as Jackson’s parents “fixer” in a documentary called “The Jacksons Are Coming,” which traced the senior Jacksons’ search for a home in Devon, England.
Fiddes, who brought his action on a conditional fee agreement (or CFA), which means his legal team only gets paid if it wins. Channel 4 has to swallow its own costs, although presumably it has libel insurance.
Bellamy believes the case illustrates the chilling effect exorbitant legal costs in CFA-funded libel claims can have on broadcasters’ freedom of expression.
“The claim was flawed from the outset and it is a damning indictment of the current libel system in the UK that the claimant has been allowed to tie up the court’s valuable time and the defendant’s resources for so long,” he said.
Stephen Lambert, chief executive of Studio Lambert, which made the programme, said Fiddes is a “fame-seeking fantasist” who didn’t like seeing himself “in his true colours.”
Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine issued a statement on behalf of the Jackson family saying that Fiddes was not a friend of the dead singer.
“The documentary showed what happened to us; that Fiddes, who said he was a friend, let us down badly. He tried to use us to his own advantage, and when things didn’t go his way, he behaved badly,” it said.