The Alternative Christmas Message airs at 3.25 pm, Christmas Day on Channel 4
For the first time Her Majesty the Queen appears to be delivering Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message. The annual televised Christmas Day broadcast, usually a message of hope and unity, will be a stark warning about the advanced technology that is enabling the proliferation of misinformation and fake news in a digital age.
Startlingly familiar at first, the Queen speaks “plainly and from the heart” in the address to reveal what she and Philip have been up to in lockdown, offer a hint about Prince Andrew’s future travel plans and share what she really thinks of Harry and Meghan’s move. Following a breath taking TikTok dance routine the Queen says the theme of her Christmas message is “trust” and in a final remark warns viewers to question “whether what we see and hear is always as it seems”.
The ‘deepfake’ Queen on screen has been created by Oscar-winning VFX studio Framestore. Deepfake technology can be used to create convincing, yet entirely fictional video content of people in the public eye, and therefore can be used to spread misinformation. With such advancements in technology enabling a slick and believable presentation of misinformation across all areas of life, from politics to public health, it’s never been more important to seek out trusted sources.
The four-minute film features renowned actress Debra Stephenson as the Queen. Directed by Framestore’s BAFTA-winning director William Bartlett, the comedic script was written by James Kettle.
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 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.’
Actress and impersonator Debra Stephenson said; “I have an intense fascination with deepfake technology. For years I have studied people to impersonate them for TV, but now I can truly become them. As an actress it is thrilling but it is also terrifying if you consider how this could be used in other contexts”
This year’s Alternative Christmas Message was commissioned by Alf Lawrie, Head of Factual Entertainment, and commissioning editor, Lee McMurray. It was produced by Framestore.
Channel 4 will continue to explore the emergence of synthetic media in the Dispatches documentary Deepfakes: Can You Believe Your Eyes airing on 28th December. Investigating the growing world of internet fakes, Dispatches Reporter Morland Sanders will reveal new statistics showing how the world is being bombarded with fake content:
- New figures obtained by Dispatches from Sensity.ai reveal the world is being bombarded with deep fake videos and that Britain is a top target
- In the last 12 months Sensity were able to identify more than 60,000 deep fake videos on the internet showing growth for this year around +250% in terms of the volume of the videos seen online
- Sensity calculated that around 10% of the deep fake video, that we know of, on the internet features victims that are British nationals.
Sanders asks how these fake videos and images have changed the world. He also learns how to make one, finds out how not to be fooled into believing everything you see and why we should all be worried about their proliferation.
The Alternative Christmas Message full transcript:
For nearly seventy years, I have kept a tradition of speaking to you at Christmas.
But on the BBC, I haven’t always been able 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.
If there is a theme to my message today, it is trust. Trust in what is genuine – and what is not.
2020 has been a challenging year for us all. A year when most of you, thanks to toilet roll shortages, have finally understood how it feels to have a predicament on the throne.
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.
But at least I still have my beloved Andrew close by. It seems unlikely he’ll be heading to North America any time soon.
2020 has also been a year of heroes. Such as our brave NHS workers, many of whom were forced to take incredible risks, like treating Boris Johnson, knowing at any time, as a result, they too could become pregnant.
As is so often the case, technology helped tackle the challenges we faced this year.
Like many of you, when I wasn’t settling down with my husband to “Netflix and Phil”, as I like to call it, I was perfecting my moves for TikTok.
In fact, there’s something I’m rather excited to share with you all. I’m under strict orders from Philip not to, but as he’s nodded off in front of Home Alone 2...
…would you mind, awfully?
You’ll have to move that camera back. Everyone ready?
If that doesn’t get me on Strictly, I don’t know what will.
So much of our world today comes to us through these screens. Which brings me back to that question of trust, of whether what we see and hear is always as it seems.
On behalf of myself, your Queen, and all at Channel 4, I trust you will have the very merriest of Merry Christmases.
DIRECTOR: (OFF CAMERA) And cut.
ACTRESS: (NORMAL VOICE) Was that OK? Can I have a cup of tea now?
Notes to Editors
Pictures are available HERE
This year’s Twitter hashtag is #AltXmas
About The Alternative Christmas Message
First airing in 1993, the Channel 4 Christmas message - the alternative to the Queens annual televised message to the nation - has previously featured an illustrious and varied selection of presenters, including the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whistleblower Edward Snowden, Danny Dyer, Afghan war veteran Major Andrew Stockton, William Pooley, the British nurse who survived Ebola, Adam Hills, Katie Piper, Quentin Crisp, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, children who survived the Grenfell Tower disaster, The Simpsons, 9/11 survivor Genelle Guzman. Last year’s message was delivered by former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
About Channel 4
Channel 4 is a publicly-owned yet commercially-funded public service broadcaster and has a remit to be innovative, experimental and distinctive. Its public ownership and not-for-profit status ensure all profit generated by its commercial activity is directly reinvested back into the delivery of its public service remit.
As a publisher-broadcaster, Channel 4 is also required to commission UK content from the independent production sector and currently works with around 300 creative companies across the UK every year.
In addition to the main Channel 4 service, its portfolio includes: E4, More4, Film4, 4seven, Channel4.com, streaming service All 4 and The Box Plus Network, including 4Music.
For more information, please contact the Channel 4 duty press officer by calling 0207 396 4444.