Benefits Street Pic 1

Channel 4 is to air a debate concerning their ‘fly on the wall’ documentary series Benefits Street.

The one-off hour long live debate will look at the issues brought to the fore by the observational documentary series Benefits Street. This series, filmed over the course of 12 months, documents the “reality” of life on a street in Birmingham where the majority of households – the broadcaster says – are dependent on benefits.

The series was produced by Love Productions in an area of Birmingham that has had the highest rate of unemployment in the country for the last eight years.

This is a series which reflects the reality of day-to-day life for some of the residents of a single street who, for the most part, rely on benefits to survive.

It does not and never has set out to reflect the experiences of every person who receives benefits yet it has triggered a national debate about state welfare at a time in which further welfare reforms are being proposed. We feel it is timely to provide a forum in which these issues can be raised and discussed. – Channel 4 Head of Factual, Ralph Lee

The programme will be live and interactive allowing viewers to submit questions; it will be chaired by broadcaster Richard Bacon. The panellists will be confirmed closer to transmission but will represent the views across the political spectrum – and crucially those who claim benefits.

It will be broadcast at 10pm on Monday 10th February, directly after the final episode of the five-part documentary series airs. The documentary has faced criticism for failing to show a balanced view of the people on benefits and has focused on the minority negatives rather than the whole picture, this view endorsed by Iain Duncan Smith homing in on it as a tool to endorse further cutbacks to the poor in society.

Most vocal critic of the programme was Owen Jones who posted online a series of questions to Channel 4:

Where’s the TV show about low-paid workers struggling on in-work benefits or unemployed people desperate for work?

Where’s the TV show about low paying bosses and private landlords scrounging off the welfare state with low pay and rent subsidies?

Where’s the TV show about rich tax dodgers who are hiding £25 billion from the public purse while millions struggle?

Where’s the TV show about £16bn of benefits unclaimed by working and unemployed people, compared to £1.2bn benefit fraud?

Most social security goes to pensioners who pay in all their life. Most working-age benefits go to working people. 6.5m people are chasing full-time work

Make everyone think unemployed people are scroungers, and let the bankers and tax-dodgers get away with it. Clever, really

As for well-off TV producers trying to further their career by turning the poor against the poor: You. Are. The. Pits.

Last night comedian and television presenter Paul O’Grady also waded into the debate noting on BBC One’s The One Show that it was ‘an unfair representation of unemployment in this country because a lot of people do not choose to be on benefits’.

It’s one of those programmes to get middle England up in arms and I think these people are sacrificial lambs on the altar of light entertainment – Paul O’Grady

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