The pay TV provider is a coproducer of the doc along with doc maker Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions and US premium cable channel HBO, but British libel laws have forced it to be shelved for the time being.
It was scheduled to run later this month on Sky Atlantic, and contains allegations of abuse at The Church of Scientology’s headquarters in the US.
However, according to UK paper the Observer, Sky is open to legal action, and has subsequently pulled the show.
This is because Northern Ireland does not recognise the 2013 Defamation Act, which safeguards individual’s and companies’ freedom of speech from frivolous claims and “libel tourism”, a practice previously rife across the UK.
Because Sky’s technical capabilities mean it cannot geo-block individual UK territories, Scientologists would be able to sue for libel using the pre-formed laws that still exist in Northern Ireland. In the rest of the UK, a claim would have to prove “serious harm” to the church’s reputation.
Sky told the Observer the doc had been postponed and not cancelled. “At present, Sky’s transmission date for Going Clear has not been confirmed,” said a spokesman.
“The Church of Scientology will be entitled to seek the protection of both UK and Irish libel laws in the event that any false or defamatory content in this film is broadcast within these jurisdictions,” a quote from the church reported in the Observer read.
Content Media, which co-owns Gibney’s Jigsaw prodco, has been preselling the doc on the international market under its full title, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
It debuted on HBO to huge ratings – the 5.5 million it took stand behind only Beyonce’s Life is But a Dream as the Time Warner-owned channel’s biggest doc of the past 10 years.