When local people were told that Channel 4 wanted to film a documentary about their community spirit everyone was enthusiastic to take part – what they didn’t know was that the name and aim of the show was pre-set – it was all to be labelled “Benefits Street” and made to show the area as a place not to live. The TV debate aired on C4 touched on some of these issues.
The channel 4 one time hit show Benefits Street was just a bit of harmless fun wasn’t it? I watched it briefly myself but found it strangely distasteful. What has since come to light is how the whole show a setup from the start aimed at taking one of the poorest areas in the UK and showcasing it as labeling people as benefit scroungers, this portrayal by the tv show producers being so powerful that 100’s of people would come to the area just to be photographed by the street sign. Cars would drive through the street with windows down shouting “get a job” or worse.
Locals were bribed to do outrageous things for alcohol and fast food – just to give producers the footage they needed to create “Benefits Street”
Sue a local resident tried to rise above the stigmatized labeling of the street by entering the area into the “Britain in Bloom” competition; a competition aimed at showcasing local areas from the UK beautified with flower displays. Working hard to get other locals involved with an aspiration to help.
When local people were told that Channel 4 wanted to film a local documentary about their community spirit they all wanted to be involved and 100’s of people indeed were filmed for the show. What the TV show producers wanted was to pick just a few of those stories and sell them with as much bias as they could film – even bribing locals with alcohol and cash for fast food.
But all aspirations to show the local community spirit in a positive light was to be dashed when it became clear that show producers were working to a preconceived script and were looking for instances to support their narrative of benefits abuse!
That is possibly why the show had a select cast of a handful of characters from the couple of hundred residents who live in the street, filming the action around a small part of the street, where there were a couple of left out settees. But surely a broadcaster has a duty to tell the wider reality to living in this area rather than just stigmatizing the community as benefit cheats?