Publicity for the programme, to be screened next month, claimed it showed the final moments of Malcolm Pointon, a composer from Cambridgeshire.It does seem that this current row is down to ITV's overenthusiastic publicity for the programme, though Mr Pointon's widow did seem quite happy to go along with the company's presentation of the programme when she was interviewed on the radio the other day.
ITV now says the footage was of Mr Pointon slipping into unconsciousness days earlier.
Film maker Paul Watson blamed the mistake on ITV publicity material.
But it is worth reminding ourselves that television never tells the whole truth. Here is Nigel Lawson describing his family's recent experience in today's Independent:
Last year I participated in one of a series of BBC documentaries called Who Do You Think You Are?, in which well-known people were meant to find out about their family's origins; in this particular programme the subject was my sister Nigella.Of course, we all know that this is how television is made in general terms. But we tend to forget it when watching individual programmes. As Lawson says:
At one stage she and I were meant to have looked up our ancestry on some public record office website and we were filmed apparently making this discovery together. We had done no such thing. The programme makers had stuck the whole document on my computer - and told us what buttons to press: we then pretended to be doing the work ourselves - and also to be startled to find out the truth (which of course we already knew).
The makers of Who Do You Think You Are? could justifiably claim that they are principally in the entertainment business and that their audience is not looking for absolute reality so much as a diverting hour in front of the television.He also asks why we are currently outraged that television can deceive us, yet happy to put up with far low standards from most newspapers.
The problem is that a large section of the population seems increasingly to believe that what is on television is reality - and that the real world outside those ever bigger screens is of decreasing significance.