Channel 4 has been accused of perpetuating a “monstrous travesty of reality” by producing shows such as Benefits Street.
The second series of the show is being filmed in Kingston Road, Tilery, in Stockton, after the first – based in Birmingham – attracted huge controvery.
MP Austin Mitchell accused the broadcaster, which sparked controversy with the notorious show Benefits Street earlier this year, of using “poverty tourism” to chase ratings.
He made the comments as Channel 4 goes ahead with a second series of Skint, due to air next week, which was filmed in his Grimsby constituency despite local opposition.
The first instalment of the observational documentary series, an investigation into poverty in Scunthorpe, followed people living on the Westcliff estate.
The Labour MP told Radio Times magazine:
“Poverty isn’t an entertainment. It’s private, debilitating and alienating.”
“Channel 4 has discovered that poverty tourism does more for ratings than celebrity culture, missions to explain or any highfalutin attempts to hold government to account.
“Kicking people when they’re down (and gullible) is so much easier and less expensive than intelligent programming.
“Victims don’t sue, and when do-gooders complain, they can always be accused of wanting to censor serious seekers after truth. So we get a proliferation of misery telly and programmes like Benefits Street, Immigration Street and Skint.”
He claimed that the broadcaster was stirring up antagonism against the poor and failing to show balance by neglecting to put the rich under the same spotlight.“Demonising the poor and turning deprivation into entertainment isn’t just deplorable, it’s dishonest,” he said.
“Poverty has become an object of blame, as if scroungers are responsible for the size of the benefits bill, young people enjoy a life of idleness and ‘hard-working families’ are having to work for peanuts while lazy neighbours procreate.
“This is a monstrous travesty of reality and concentrates hatred on the least well-educated, most deprived.
“TV doesn’t even balance it with shows on the scandal of massive tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and the rich, the luxurious lifestyle of the City and Taxhaven on Thames or the excesses of the Wolf of Wall Street.”
> Well of course they don’t – those people own them !
He urged Channel 4 to “think again”, adding: “Why not turn the cameras on the bankers punishing the poor, with Benefits Bankers, Tax-Evading Toffs and Fiddling Financiers? When is television going to do its job and take on all that? All it needs is guts and a sense of fairness.”
> See my previous comment.
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed in Birmingham, made stars of some of its cast but was described by some critics as “poverty porn”.
Programme-makers faced opposition in Stockton, the location for the new series of Benefits Street, and in Southampton, where spin-off series Immigration Street was being filmed.
Channel 4 executive Ralph Lee recently defended the shows, saying: “We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes.
“In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right – and the necessity – to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
> In a way that perpetuates the stereotypes our tax-evading masters wish us to…
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Nov 2014
He is one of the most significant figures in British political history, with a monument in his honour in the centre of Newcastle and a number of stately homes linked to his life in Northumberland.
Yet the 250th anniversary of the birth of Earl Charles Grey is set to go almost unmarked in his home region with just a solitary event planned – and that marking the blend of tea which takes his name.
Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey, was born and bred in Northumberland, and a statue of him sits on top of the monument erected in his honour in the heart of Newcastle. Grey Street – once voted the finest street in the UK – is named after him, as is Grey College at Durham University.
During his four-year spell as Prime Minister, he was responsible for fundamental changes in British society, including the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the Great Reform Act of 1832 which is credited as launching modern democracy in Britain.
And yet today, exactly 250 years on from his birth, the only event planned in the region to celebrate Earl Grey is a two-day event in June organised by EAT! NewcastleGateshead Initiative.
Last night, the current resident of Earl Grey’s birthplace, Fallodon Hall, near Alnwick, said she felt a sense of personal “guilt” that the milestone is being allowed to pass by and large unmarked.
Lucia Bridgeman said: “Who is the person who has got the resources and contributes the imagination to create something out of a historical moment?
“We have got the do-gooders in the villages doing magazines, we have got the county council that has got no money, we have got other people who are too busy doing their jobs.
“In a sense Northumberland owes the Greys a huge amount but there are not many Greys left, it is a family that has died out. That might be the reason his memory has faded locally, his family has faded with him.”
Mrs Bridgeman said Earl Grey was part of a “great political family” and argued his memory lives on regardless of a lack of fanfare.
She said: “I think just the Grey family have had a huge impact on Northumberland and the county which is acknowledged because of the statues and other physical memories of them. It is no disgrace to their name that this is not being acknowledged.”
The solitary event in commemoration of Earl Grey is inspired by the tea which was named after him.
Tea and Cake Planet, A Weekend Adventure in Brewing and Baking, runs at The Boiler Shop, Newcastle, on June 28 and 29.
Northumberland Tourism, the body responsible for attracting visitors to the country, did at least put out a press release flagging up the anniversary and encouraging people to visit the gardens and arboretum at Howick Hall near Alnwick, where Earl Grey lived and where the tea that bears his name was dreamt up.
In the release, the organisation’s Jude Leitch said: “Earl Grey is one of Northumberland’s favourite sons and his classic tea blend is enjoyed around the world.
“Many tea-lovers have already made the pilgrimage to his birthplace at the beautiful Howick Hall Gardens and we’re sure more will follow in 2014, the 250th anniversary of his birth.”
The Northumbrian who ended slavery
Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, was born at Fallodon Hall, near Alnwick, on March 13, 1764, before moving to nearby Howick Hall.
Grey was elected to parliament for the then Northumberland constituency in 1786, aged just 22.
He became a part of the Whig Party, the origins of which lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule.
In 1806, Grey, by then Lord Howick, became leader of the Whigs. A year later, he entered the Lords, succeeding his father as Earl Grey. In 1830, the Whigs took power, with Grey as PM.
Under his leadership, the government passed the Reform Act 1832, which saw the reform of the House of Commons, and the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
In 1834 Grey’s spell as Prime Minister ended. He died in 1845 and was buried at Howick.
Earl Grey Tea is named after Charles. The tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for him, to suit the water from the well at Howick, using bergamot in particular to offset the taste of the lime in it. Twinings came to market the product and it is now sold worldwide.
Grey’s Monument in Newcastle was built in 1838 in recognition of his passing of the Reform Act. .
The Greys were a sprawling political dynasty. One descendant, Sir Edward Grey, was Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of the First World War. His role in attempting to head off the conflict was dramatised by the BBC earlier this month, witn Ian McDiarmid playing Grey.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 13 March 2014