Everyone knows the Queen delivers her Christmas message through the BBC and ITV, but don’t be confused if you see what appears to be Her Majesty on Channel 4 this year.
Over the years, Channel 4’s Christmas message has been delivered by the likes of Katie Piper, Adam Hills and Danny Dyer, but this year, technology is taking over to provide a more comedic take on things.
While the Queen reflects on the past year and offers her words of wisdom on the BBC and ITV, a ‘deepfake’ version of her will sit in for Channel 4’s ‘alternative’ speech.
See a promo video for the speech below:
Deepfake technology allows one person’s face to be swapped for another, meaning an actor can be made to look like a familiar face as they play out a series of actions and deliver lines. The technology can be very convincing, and there are now a number of apps that allow users to make themselves look like celebrities with just a single photo.
Channel 4 has used the technology to make it appear as if the Queen is making jokes about Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Prime Minister Boris Johnson – when in reality the lines will be delivered by actor Debra Stephenson.
In a five-minute message, the deepfake version of the Queen will stay true to 2020 as she tries her hand at a viral TikTok challenge, as well as referring to a number of controversial topics such as the Duke of York’s decision to step down from royal duties earlier this year following an interview he gave about his relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the BBC reports.
The broadcaster has come under fire for its decision, but it has stressed that the deepfake will be used to give a ‘stark warning’ about fake news in the digital age.
The BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said the imitation of the Queen was not ‘a particularly good one’.
The voice sounds what it is – a rather poor attempt to impersonate her. What makes it troubling is the use of video technology to attempt to sync her lips to the words being spoken.
The promotional video for the speech sees the ‘Queen’ saying she hasn’t always been able to ‘speak plainly’ on the BBC and expressing her gratitude to Channel 4 for allowing her to say ‘whatever’ she likes. Alluding to fake news, the deepfake says, ‘If there is a theme to my message today, it is trust. Trust in what is genuine, and what is not.’
Stephenson said it was ‘thrilling’ to play the Queen, but admitted it was ‘also terrifying if you consider how this could be used in other contexts’.
The Alternative Christmas Message is set to air on Channel 4 at 15:25 GMT on December 25.
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