MP: Benefits Street misleads about life on social security

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

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

Channel 4's Benefits Street 'stirring up hatred'

Channel 4 have been accused of "stirring up hatred" and creating a "skewed image" of society through their controversial programme Benefits Street.

In a petition to Change.org, Arshad Mahmood called on the television network to cancel the remaining episodes in the series. He said:

I have worked for 33 years but after major surgery am now unable to work and receive some benefits. The backlash and abuse of social networks towards people on benefits as a result of this show has shocked me. This is not a responsible approach from a public service broadcaster.

Channel 4 should not broadcast any further episodes of the program - it is creating a skewed image of a section of society and stirring up hatred. This is not a responsible approach from a public service broadcaster.

More than 5,000 people have signed his petition so far.

Read: Thousands sign petition against Benefits Street

Advertisement

Thousands sign petition against Benefits Street

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that Channel 4 drop the remainder of their controversial show Benefits Street.

The petition is demanding that Channel 4 stop broadcasting the show. Credit: Change.org

The show follows the life of a number of people on welfare in Birmingham and has prompted a police probe and hundreds of complaints from viewers.

Read: Police launch review over Benefits Street footage

Nearly 400 people have complained to Channel 4, and almost 300 people have complained to Ofcom, the Independent reports.

Channel 4 defends Benefits Street programme

The programme was filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham.
The programme was filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham. Credit: Google Maps

Channel 4 said that the series, filmed for more than a year, was "a fair reflection of the reality of life on a street where the majority of households receive benefits".

It was "a sympathetic, humane and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts in benefits," it said.

It said that contributors were "briefed extensively" before filming took place and were "given support all the way thorough the process".

"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," it added.

On alleged criminal activity, 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."

Police 'assessing abusive' Tweets after Benefits Street

Tweets sent on Monday night contained abusive messages and death threats, aimed at participants in the Benefits Street programme, according to police.

Superintendent Long said: "We are assessing a number of tweets which were posted last night and investigating whether or not any criminal offences have been committed."

Channel 4 said that if any tweets "cross the line into specific threats", Twitter and the police would be notified.

The broadcaster said that it had received around 100 complaints, while Ofcom is thought to have received a similar number from viewers concerned about the portrayal of people on benefits.

Police 'inundated' with comments over Benefits Street

West Midlands Police has revealed that is has been "inundated" with comments from people concerned about apparent criminal activity shown on a Channel 4 documentary, last night.

Supt Danny Long, said the force had not been involved in the programme Benefits Street and had not seen the footage until it was broadcast.

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.

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.

– Supt Danny Long, West Midlands Police

Read: Police review Benefits Street over crime concerns

Advertisement

Central

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.