24 MARCH 1990, Page 25

Scottish Lorna Doone

Sir: Paul Johnson chides Thames Televi- sion for choosing Scotland rather than the West Country to film Lorna Doone (The media, 24 February). Without bothering to check its accuracy, he uses a misquote from the West Country press to condemn Thames Television for both its financial meanness and its disregard for authentic- ity.

As regards meanness, Thames Televi- sion holds an enviable record for producing high-budget, award-winning family films. Last Christmas alone, we screened the Roald Dahl classics, Danny the Champion of the World and The BFG, as well as a contemporary drama set in Sweden, A Long Way Home. Lorna Doone is the successor to a long line of such projects. However, our resources are not limitless and we need not apologise for saving roughly £100,000 in hotel bills by taking the route we have chosen.

As regards authenticity, anyone who has recently read R. D. Blackmore's novel (and I doubt this includes Paul Johnson) will realise that it demands sweeping moorland vistas, plunging waterfalls, and a secret valley, as well as much else besides. When we researched the available locations on Exmoor, we discovered that much of the area has changed profoundly since the 17th- century setting of the original novel. While I have the greatest sympathy for the West Country tourist industry in attemp- ting to promote the charms of their region, I believe it could never successfully evoke the full-blooded dramatic sweep of this classic novel.

Above all, as our Thames press repre- sentative emphasised to those journalists who contacted us, we made this decision primarily for creative, not commercial reasons. Paul Johnson's suggestion that the ITC should deprive Thames Television of its licence in 1992, simply because of our choice of locations, can hardly be taken seriously.

Alan Horrox

Thames Television Plc, 149 Tottenham Court Road, London W1