Controlling Britney Spears: ‘Framing Britney’ follow-up's shock surveillance claims

A sequel to the shocking documentary that examined the rise and fall of Britney Spears claims the pop star was being monitored by her conservator father at every turn.

By Rhys Lewis Published: 27 September 2021 - 10.12pm
Andrew Cullen for The New York Times FreeBritney banners

Controversial documentary Framing Britney Spears shocked music fans when it was first shown in the UK on Sky Documentaries and NOW in March 2021.

The New York Times Presents film examined the rise and fall of the pop princess and raised questions about her conservatorship and rights, specifically the legal framework which granted her father Jamie the right to control her finances and, in effect, Britney as a person.

Now the New York Times team have made a second film, featuring interviews with people with intimate knowledge of the conservatorship. The film was released just two days before a judge is expected to make key decisions regarding the case at a Los Angeles hearing.

The film paints a shocking portrait of an intense surveillance apparatus that monitored every move Britney made, and suggests that she was being watched, listened to and controlled at every step, and that interactions with friends and family were frequently recorded.

In a confidential report in 2016, Britney told a court investigator that her conservatorship had become “an oppressive and controlling tool against her.” But how the conservatorship has controlled her life has never been revealed, until now.

When is Controlling Britney Spears on TV?

Controlling Britney Spears is available on Sky Documentaries with NOW Entertainment Membership from Monday, September 27.

What happened in Framing Britney Spears?

Framing Britney Spears looked at two main aspects of the singer’s life and career so far.

Firstly, it examined the conservatorship put in place in 2008 following Britney’s public breakdown.

The legal arrangement grants her father, Jamie Spears, the right to control her finances and to an extent Britney as a person.

The saga prompted fans all over the world to speak out as part of the #FreeBritney social media campaign.

Secondly, the programme looked at the sexist treatment of Britney throughout her career and the wider picture of how women in the spotlight have to deal with misogyny.

The documentary even prompted her ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake to apologise for the way he acted towards both her and Janet Jackson, whose career suffered following the infamous Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction' while Timberlake - who was on stage with Jackson - saw his own career go from strength to strength.

It also explored how Britney was hounded by the paparazzi, particularly when she was going through her divorce from Kevin Federline and the custody battle over their two young sons.

Supporters march outside the hearing into Britney's conservatorship in June 2021 Allison Zaucha
Supporters march outside the hearing into Britney's conservatorship in June 2021

What has happened since the first film?

There has been some progress on Britney’s conservatorship since Framing Britney Spears first aired in the US in February 2021.

In June 2021, the singer finally broke her silence on the affair, telling a court that she was allegedly drugged, forced to perform against her will and was forced to use birth control to prevent her from having any more children under the rules of the conservatorship.

She said she would not perform while her father retains control over her life, and in a Los Angeles hearing, called on the judge to end the “abusive” conservatorship without her having to be evaluated.

“I deserve to have a life,” she told the court.

In September, her father Jamie Spears said he was ready to stand down as his daughter’s conservator “when the time is right” and told the court that his daughter should be given the chance to manage her own affairs.

Spears’ next hearing takes place on Wednesday September 29, when the judge, Brenda Penny, is expected to address the singer’s petition to remove her father as conservator, and Jamie’s own offer to step down in preparation for transition to a new conservator.

Watch Framing Britney Spears and Controlling Britney Spears on Sky Documentaries with NOW Entertainment Membership

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