The furore about ‘Benefits Street’ (a street in our previous parish), a ‘documentary’ (if we can dignify it with that word) seems to be building steadily, with articles in every newspaper and online too. Channel 4 must be laughing all the way to the bank.
Owen Jones in the ‘i‘ paper was blunt:
‘A healthy TV industry would stand up to the powerful and wealthy. Not ours: instead it stands up to the poor and voiceless’ … (he then details various programmes which have taken the same lazy line as C4) and says
‘This dross has left the public woefully ill-informed. Polls show that people on average estimate that 27% of social security payments are lost to fraud, when it is just 0.7%’ (he continues with other figures showing similar results) …. ‘A healthy media would challenge myths and prejudices; ours is determined to fan them.
Here is the world that is missing from our television screens. The poverty-wage-paying bosses and rip-off-rent-charging landlords milking our welfare state dry as we subsidise them with tax credits and housing benefit. The low-paid workers struggling along on in-work benefits and falling wages, who make up the bulk of Britain’s poor. The 6.5 million people looking for full-time work, sending out CV after CV and not even getting a reply. The £16bn worth of benefits unclaimed each year compared to the £1.2bn lost to fraud.
Conveniently too, TV shows shift our gaze away from the real villains of modern Britain. Where are the shows about wealthy tax-dodgers who deprive the Exchequer of £25bn a year, even as millions have to pay their taxes and be pounded by austerity? What about the bankers who plunged the world into economic catastrophe and continue to thrive as others suffer the consequences?
… it is the privileged who are commissioning the shows who are airbrushing out the reality of modern Britain. The poison must be stopped. Let’s … start demanding that television gives a platform to the reality of life …’
One positive thing came out of the first programme, at least. The guy going door-to-door on the show
selling little containers of things for 50p was offered a job after the first airing. Good for him.
I don’t know where Owen Jones gets all his facts and figures – it would be helpful to know.
And what does he mean by ‘reality’?
Despite these questions, IMHO – he has a point.