The chief executive of Channel 4 has defended its decision to make another series of Benefits Street in Stockton.
Despite fierce local and national criticism of the show, Ralph Lee, boss of the channel, said that the broadcaster’s output would not be ‘censored’.
The second series of Benefits Street is being filmed on Kingston Road, in Tilery in Stockton – leading to MPs and council leaders condemning the show, community groups launching a petition and Boro fans unveiling a banner at the Riverside Stadium reading “Being poor is not entertainment”.
But Mr Lee told a national newspaper:
“We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programme” .
“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.”
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham wrote to every resident of Kingston Road asking them to “think again” about taking part in the Channel 4 documentary.
The Labour MP had already suggested the makers of the programme, Love Productions, should “get out of the town” after accusing them of setting people up for “entertainment purposes only”.
And two Stockton mums Charlotte Hall and Di Hewitt launched an online petition, attracting 1,700 names, asking Love Productions to leave Stockton.
Middlesbrough football supporters group, Red Faction, were behind the banners unveiled in the south stand of the Riverside Stadium during Boro’s game against Reading.
Group member Steve Fletcher, 27 said at the time:
“I was hoping it would catch people’s eye at the match and help raise awareness.
“I don’t think the show will paint Teesside in a particularly good light. It is trivialising a serious social issue.
“Shows like this demonise working class people. They need help not mocking.”
Business and council leaders condemned the filming, saying that it would “misrepresent” Stockton.
And proud Stocktonian Mike McGrother, frontman in local band Wildcats of Kilkenny, caused an internet storm when he sent an impassioned letter praising the town to producers.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 28 Oct 2014
Concerns that controversial television show Benefits Street could be filmed in the Stockton area have resurfaced after reports that film crews have been spotted in the area.
Numerous sighting of filming being carried out in Norton have been reported – and rumours are rife in the village that it is for the Channel 4 show.
But Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has urged people not to worry – and says the film crew seen may not even be from the programme.
“When the producers came to see me in Westminster a couple of months ago, they said they would not be going to Dixon Street (where they were previously researching),” said Mr Cunningham.
“They said if they were going to be in Stockton, they would keep me informed – and I have not been told me anything.
“However, I have heard there was some sort of filming going on in Norton so I have sent a note to Love Productions asking if they could tell me if they are up to anything.
“At the moment there is nothing to fear, but it is important to keep vigilant.
“If people are getting approached to be on the show, they need to get in touch with my office.”
Norton North councillor Steve Nelson claimed he saw someone filming by the duck pond in Norton on Wednesday.
But he added “it could have been for something else.”
“If it is them, I wouldn’t want them in Stockton and definitely not in Norton,” said Councillor Nelson.
“If people are approached by Love Productions to take part in the show I would urge them to say no.”
In May, it was claimed Benefits Street researchers were chased by residents and pelted with eggs.
TV crews were in Dixon Street, off Dovecot Street, Stockton, when residents allegedly chased, egged and threw a bucket of water over the research team from Love Productions, which makes the show for Channel 4.
One Norton High Street shop worker said: “I think it’s shocking. We don’t want Benefits Street here.”
Another said she saw two women being filmed walking down High Street and were also seen in Home Start Teesside charity shop.
“People are saying it is Benefits Street,” she said. “But I hope it’s not.”
There have also been reports that the show’s researchers have been in the Middlesbrough area as they look for a setting for a second series.
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed on James Turner Street in Birmingham , sparked a national controversy about its portrayal of people living on benefits.
Media regulator Ofcom received hundreds of complaints about what was dubbed ‘poverty porn‘.
But it was hugely popular and global broadcasting rights for the show were later sold .
Benefits Street gave Channel Four its highest viewing figures of any show since 2012.
Love Productions have been asked to comment, but had not responded by the time of publication.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 15 Aug 2014
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