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June 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A 20/20 feature that aired on ABC last Friday has blown up in the faces of the program’s producers like a certain Icelandic volcano. The feature, about a British man, Daniel Tammet, who has accomplished incredible memory feats, including learning the difficult Icelandic language in a week, was presented as if it had been filmed recently by an ABC crew and that the reporter narrating it, London-based ABC correspondent Nick Watt, had witnessed Tammet’s memory feats. MediaWatch, a media watchdog show that airs on the Australian Broadcasting Corp., presented video evidence Monday night showing that virtually all of the footage used in the 20/20 feature was actually produced six years ago by a British film crew for a documentary called Brainman. Watt’s assertion that he and his crew “watched” Tammet learn Icelandic was, in the words of MediaWatch host Jonathan Holmes, “a bald faced lie.” MediaWatch also showed clips from the 20/20 program presented as news on two Australian newscasts, and Holmes concluded the report by remarking: “Note to Australian news programs: don’t assume that America’s ABC is a credible news source.” Asked about the ABC report, Martin Weitz, who produced the original British documentary, called it “a gross distortion of the facts. … To say that ‘we watched him’ is clearly untrue and an abuse of our filmed material.” Caught seemingly red-handed, ABC admitted the ethical and journalistic lapse, a spokesperson telling the TVNewser website, “We should have cited the documentary, and made crystal clear when it had been recorded, and we certainly apologize for the errors.”