Producers of controversial reality TV show Benefits Street have turned their attention to Stockton – just weeks after sizing up locations in Middlesbrough.
Cameras from the Channel 4 show – which previously painted an unflattering portrait of a Birmingham street – were filming for two days on Dixon Street, Stockton.
Stockton South MP James Wharton has written a letter to the programme makers urging them not to choose Stockton – and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has written to residents saying they would be “exploited” by TV crews.
Mr Wharton has written to Love Productions saying he was “concerned that your programme will further perpetuate some of the unjustified, negative stereotypes often attributed to our area, by those who have no knowledge of it”.
Mr Cunningham posted letters through all residents’ doors, saying: “Anyone who saw any of the first series will have seen how the programme makers aim to exploit people, their families and community and the problems and challenges they face – just to entertain other people. I think it will be largely negative with people in the area stigmatised.”
But residents have mixed views –
Dad-of-two Brian Hayes, 26, said: “I said that I wouldn’t mind, as long as it shows how hard it is for people on benefits to get a job.
“I am desperate to work to earn money for my family but it’s hard.
“Being on something like Benefits Street is degrading but if it helped me get a job then I’d have them down here.”
> But should you have to degrade yourself just to get a job ? The hoops you have to jump through already are bad enough, do you really need to pander to lowest common denominator “entertainment” as well ?
Brian has set up a Facebook page about the issue.
He said: “The truth is, 70% of the people on this street don’t want to be here. More than half the people work. There are a lot of people working to try and make Stockton a better place and the worst bits don’t need to be picked out and shown.”
> But they will be…bet you anything.
Gillian Chester has worked at the Dovecot Street Corner Shop, on the corner of Dixon Street, for 10 years, and thinks producers would focus on negatives.
She said: “I don’t think it will do any good. The first series just picked out the worst parts, and I doubt they would show all the people on the street who work.”
Gina Westwood, who has lived on Dixon Street for 14 years, said: “I think it’s all been blown out of proportion, really.
“The cameras were here for a screen test, but I heard they’ve been to five different streets in Stockton. But apparently Dixon Street was the friendliest.”
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed in Birmingham, saw nearly 2,000 complaints to Ofcom, but it gave Channel 4 the highest viewing figures since 2012 and the rights for the show were sold across the world.
Sources – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette 15 April 2014
Northern Echo 15 April 2014