Channel 4 defends Prince Harry kidnapping drama

image captionActor Sebastian Reid, centre, plays Prince Harry in the C4 docudrama

Channel 4 has defended a dramatised documentary about the risk of Prince Harry being taken prisoner in Afghanistan after concerns from the head of the armed forces.

The station said The Taking of Prince Harry was "a serious journalistic examination of a current issue".

The one-off programme is scheduled to be shown on Channel 4 on Thursday.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup wrote to Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns.

It has been reported that Sir Jock asked Channel 4 not to show the programme because of the distress it would cause to the families of service personnel.

Neither the MoD nor the broadcaster have disclosed the precise details of the correspondence.

In The Taking of Prince Harry, the prince - who spent 10 weeks serving in Helmand province in 2007-08 - is portrayed by actor Sebastian Reid.

It includes scenes showing the royal being held behind enemy lines while negotiations are carried out to secure his release.

In a statement, Channel 4 said the programme was "rooted in expert testimony" and "treats the subject matter sensitively".

"It is a legitimate subject for documentary to explore the risks that Prince Harry faces as a high-value target, and to seek to understand the full nature of the dangers to a royal in the modern theatre of war, as well as the political implications of a high-profile kidnap," it added.

Prince Harry was pulled out of action in Afghanistan after news of his secret deployment leaked out.

Earlier this year, the 26-year-old spoke of his desire to return to the front line and "serve my country as any other soldier".

image captionSir Jock Stirrup, left, expressed concerns in a letter to Lord Burns, right

The Taking of Prince Harry follows a 2006 Channel 4 drama documentary that depicted the assassination of former US President George W Bush.

Earlier this year the channel preceded the Labour leadership election with another docu-drama about the rivalry between newly-elected leader Ed Milliband and his older brother David.

Radio Times columnist Alison Graham has seen The Taking of Prince Harry and has described it as "a workaday 'what if?' docu-drama that holds few surprises".

"There are some unconvincing dramatised scenes, with an actor playing Harry, but they add little and are sometimes laughable," she writes.

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