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Pan-European pay TV giant Sky’s Sky Atlantic network has halted plans to air HBO’s Alex Gibney-directed Scientology documentary Going Clear.
The Observer reported that the channel originally planned to air the doc this month, but has put those plans on ice because Northern Ireland is not subject to Britain’s 2013 Defamation Act, which could expose Sky to libel claims there. The Defamation Act requires claimants to prove that a program could cause them serious harm.
For technical reasons, Sky can’t show different Sky Atlantic signals in different regions.
The Observer said that Scientology instructed U.K. lawyers to warn Sky of possible legal action if Going Clear airs.
Sky called its decision a delay rather than a cancellation, with the Observer saying the company did not deny the doc was held due to legal concerns. But Sky didn’t go into details beyond saying it had never announced an air date. “At present, Sky’s transmission date for Going Clear has not been confirmed,” the Observer quoted a Sky representative as saying.
A Sky spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter the company wouldn’t comment further.
Scientology has called the doc “one-sided, bigoted propaganda built on falsehoods.”
The Observer quoted Scientology as saying: “The Church of Scientology will be entitled to seek the protection of both U.K. and Irish libel laws in the event that any false or defamatory content in this film is broadcast within these jurisdictions.”
Rupert Murdoch‘s 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake in Sky.
The doc’s premiere in the U.S. nabbed nearly 1.7 million viewers, making it HBO’s highest-rated doc premiere in almost a decade.
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