Police launch review over 'Benefits Street' footage

Police have launched a review of footage captured by TV documentary Benefits Street following complaints about possible criminal activity caught on camera.

Petition launched to stop Birmingham TV show broadcast reaches 17,500 signatures

An image from the Channel 4 series Benefits Street Credit: Channel 4

A petition has been launched to ask Channel 4 to stop broadcasting the show 'Benefits Street' and to make a donation to charity 'for the harm caused' by the programme. Channel 4 say they will continue to broadcast the remaining episodes.

The first episode of the four-part series, based in Birmingham, has been criticised by the organisers of the petition for 'stirring up hatred.'

In the programme Channel 4 spoke to people living on benefits in a street in Birmingham. The petition's organisers say the broadcast caused people to write abuse on Twitter about people on benefits.

In a statement Channel 4 said:

'We are confident this is a fair and balanced portrait of a street where many people receive benefits.

We will continue to broadcast the series for four episodes to come. We hope people will see other elements of the community as the series progresses and urge people to keep watching.'

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MP: Benefits Street misrepresents life on social security

The controversial documentary Benefits Street is a "misrepresentation" of life for people on social security, according to a senior MP.

Dame Anne Begg says the Channel 4 show claimed it would portray life on a street where three-quarters of residents were on benefits, but then focused almost exclusively on those receiving unemployment benefits, which make up only a small proportion of the overall social security bill.

Dame Anne Begg, the chairwoman of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has spoken out against Benefits Street. Credit: Press Association

She said: "What struck me is it was called Benefits Street and then three-quarters or more of the programme followed one storyline which was about a petty criminal and shoplifter and how he lived on the proceeds of his crime, rather than the reality of what people face when they live on benefits."

The documentary depicted the lives of residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham, sparked hundreds of complaints to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom and Channel 4 about the way it portrayed people on benefits. Some residents claimed they were tricked by film-makers into taking part.

But Channel 4 insists that it was "very clear and transparent" with those taking part about the nature of the programme it envisaged.

More: Thousands sign petition against Benefits Street

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Report: Birmingham's Benefits Street is selfie attraction

Fans of the Channel 4 documentary series Benefits Street have turned the Birmingham street into a tourist attraction.

An image from the Channel 4 series Benefits Street Credit: Channel 4

The Birmingham Mail reported that people have been taking selfies next to the James Turner Street sign and uploading them to Twitter and Facebook.

Channel 4 have been accused of "stirring up hatred" through their controversial programme Benefits Street and thousands have signed a petition against the show.

Read: Thousands sign petition against Benefits Street

Channel 4 issue statement defending 'Benefits Street'

Channel 4 has defended its 'Benefits Street' documentary, which was filmed on John Turner Street in Winson Green in Birmingham.

West Midlands Police are now reviewing the footage which was broadcast last night, which it believes showed criminal activity taking place. Channel 4 said:

The production crew were filming in a purely observational capacity - at no stage was criminal behaviour encouraged or condoned. All contributors were briefed that if they carried out criminal activity on camera this could result in criminal investigations after broadcast.

Responding to the accusations today contributors who took part in the filming were 'misled' they said:

Filmed for more than a year, this fair and balanced observational documentary series is a fair reflection of the reality of life on a street where the majority of households receive benefits - and in an area of Birmingham that has had the highest rate of unemployment in the country for the last eight years.

Again and again the series reveals a community where residents know that, when times get tough, they can turn to each other for help. It is a sympathetic, humane and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts in benefits.

The contributors were briefed extensively before any filming took place and have been given support all the way thorough the process – members of the experienced production team are in daily contact with them.

The main contributors have been offered the opportunity to view the programmes they feature in before transmission. We took on board their comments and in some cases made changes to the programmes.

– Channel 4 spokesperson

Read: Police 'inundated' with complaints over Benefits Street

Police 'inundated' with complaints over Benefits Street

A senior police officer has revealed officers were "inundated" with comments from people concerned about some of the activities shown on TV documentary Benefits Street.

Supt Danny Long, from West Midlands Police, said officers saw footage of apparent criminal activity shown on the Channel 4 programme for the first time when it aired yesterday.

One of the families featured on Benefits Street
One of the families featured on Benefits Street Credit: Channel 4

He said the force had not been involved in the programme, meaning they were not aware what it might show until it was broadcast.

A review has now been launched of the footage to assess whether any criminal investigation is needed.

He added:

Like many people across the country, we saw the footage broadcast on the programme for the first time last night.

Throughout the programme and in the hours that have followed, we have been inundated with comments from members of the public, many of whom are concerned about elements of show.

The documentary was filmed in James Turner Street, Winson Green, Birmingham
The documentary was filmed in James Turner Street, Winson Green, Birmingham Credit: Channel 4

We are currently assessing whether the content of the programme can assist us as part of any ongoing investigations or indeed whether any new inquiries should be launched in light of the material that has been broadcast.

He added that neighbourhood police officers in the James Turner Street area of Winson Green in Birmingham - where the documentary was filmed - enjoyed a "very positive" relationship with residents for the most part, and said people in the area were generally supportive of the police.

There is no suggestion that any of the people pictured here were involved in any of the activity under review.

Police review Benefits Street over crime concerns

Police have today launched a review of footage captured by TV documentary Benefits Street following complaints about possible criminal activity caught on camera.

The programme, broadcast by Channel 4 yesterday, followed residents in James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham.

One of the images captured by the Channel 4 team, shown in the opening episode of Benefits Street
One of the images captured by the Channel 4 team, shown in the opening episode of Benefits Street Credit: Channel 4

Officers from West Midlands Police said they were "inundated" with comments from viewers throughout the programme and in the hours afterwards expressing concerns over some of the activity shown.

They have now launched a review of the footage to assess whether any criminal investigations should be carried out.

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