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Sky hands back Home Office payment for AFP series

LONDON - Sky has handed back the Home Office's £400,000 contribution to its new documentary series 'UK Border Force' in an effort to escape the controversy building around the government's investment in advertising-funded programming (AFP).

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The satellite broadcaster will continue to air the eight-part show, which started last week with a behind-the-scenes look at Heathrow's Terminal 3 and the border control team at Calais.

Sky said it had cancelled the sponsorship contract because it wanted viewers to be confident the programme was "wholly independent".

The decision comes after Ofcom opened an investigation last month into whether another Home Office-sponsored programme, 'Beat: Life on the Street', an ITV series about police community support officers, breached its broadcasting code.

There are concerns shows such as 'Beat: Life on the Street' amount to nothing more than government propaganda, while masquerading as independently produced documentaries.

It is understood that Government departments have spent almost £2m of taxpayers' money to date on funding television programmes that were hard to distinguish from ordinary documentaries and did not make the public sector's involvement obvious.

'UK Border Force' was overseen on the Home Office's behalf by the Central Office of Information (COI), which paid £400,000 to Steadfast, an independent production company, to help fund the series for Sky.

Sky said that it had now decided to "fully fund" the programme, and the money had been paid back to the Government.

It said will now fund and broadcast the series without sponsorship from the COI and Home Office.

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