Benefits Street maker denies demonising unemployed

The boss of the television company behind Benefits Street has denied that the Channel 4 programme demonises the poor and the unemployed.

Richard McKerrow of Love Productions, whose past shows include Make Bradford British and The Great British Bake Off, said the five-part series was “a very honest and true portrayal of life in Britain” that people are “frightened of”.

The show, which follows a number of benefits claimants from Birmingham’s James Turner Street, has drawn at least four million viewers. Critics have called it “poverty porn” and participants have claimed they took part on the premise that it was about community spirit.

“If you are telling me that shining a light on poverty in Britain is pornographic, so we shouldn’t pay attention to poor people, I think that’s outrageous,” said McKerrow. “It’s just a term being trotted out by people who want to have a bash at television. The notion that the show represents people on benefits around Britain is not accurate; we never say that. We were focusing on a particular group of characters living on a street in Birmingham.”

He denied participants had been duped, but added: “I don’t want to say I am actively looking to be controversial because I’m not but I slightly think if you are not doing something that gets attention, then why do it?”

McKerrow said more could be done to help people that appear on television. “If I had [to point to] one particular weakness of what we do, I think there isn’t enough funded aftercare for people who have been brave enough to be on television, whether [the funding is] from broadcasters or the government.”

(Source: MediaGuardian)

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