Benefits Street aims to give an insight to the working class in modern-day Britain, and give a voice to those that claim welfare from the state. However, the media regulator Ofcom has received hundreds of complaints regarding the programme, and residents of the street were subject to Twitter-made death threats. Benefits Street is clearly a controversial programme to air to the general public. But producers of the show are in denial that the documentary is inappropriate, and insist that the importance of it is shown by the scale of the reaction that has been received.
I’m with the general public on this one. The programme should begin with a huge disclaimer, warning viewers that Benefits Street is in no way representative of benefit claimants and the show’s primary purpose is to feed negative views on the poverty-stricken. Labour MP Shabana Mahmood publicly condemned the show, saying, "I found it shocking that Channel 4 or any other organisation would present poverty as entertainment.” Such a distorted and unrepresentative view of the poor should not be allowed to be distributed in a way that gives such a mocking, condemning observation of the working class.
Benefits Street is misleading and encourages viewers to view people who claim benefits in a very specific light; the media in general pushes the public to think of the poor as lazy and ignorant. What so many people forget is that the media present such a small section of society for us to view, but this allows the public to form opinions based on such biased and restricted material.
Perhaps the only good thing that has come out of Benefits Street is the political debate that was prompted by the programme. Hopefully in the future, the working class will not be used as entertainment, but instead given a platform from which to inspire the provision of better opportunities for those forced to claim welfare.