Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell: Skint and Benefits Street are “deplorable, dishonest poverty tourism”

The politician who represents the constituency where Channel 4 filmed factual programme Skint says series like these turn “deprivation into entertainment”

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Channel 4 series Benefits Street and Skint are “deplorable” examples of “Misery Telly” which turn “deprivation into entertainment” according to MP Austin Mitchell.

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The attack by the Great Grimsby MP in this week’s Radio Times comes in advance of the return of three-part series Skint, which was shot in his constituency. It airs on Channel 4 on Monday 24th November.

Mitchell opposed the filming of the observational documentary, which examines the long-term effects of unemployment in the East Marsh area of Grimsby, and he writes in this week’s magazine: “Channel 4 has discovered that poverty tourism does more for ratings than celebrity culture, missions to explain or any highfalutin attempts to hold government to account.

“Kicking people when they’re down (and gullible) is so much easier and less expensive than intelligent programming. Victims don’t sue, and when do-gooders complain, they can always be accused of wanting to censor serious seekers after truth. So we get a proliferation of Misery Telly and programmes like Benefits Street, Immigration Street and Skint.

“Demonising the poor and turning deprivation into entertainment isn’t just deplorable, it’s dishonest – while television channels all proclaim their high integrity, the producers sent out on this mission to demean aren’t to be equally trusted.

“They have their own agenda and all too often this demands victims. So they come to a town nominally to ‘research’, but in practice to find the most sordid locations and pick out the most loud-mouthed, show-off layabouts who’ll rant at anything for a few bob (which they don’t in fact get).”

Channel 4 responded to the claims with the following statement: “Poverty and inequality are some of the most pressing issues facing British society so it would be a dereliction of our public service remit if we shied away from documenting their effects and deny a voice to those most severely affected.

“This sympathetic observational documentary, filmed over a year, demonstrates the courage and resilience of individuals, families and those working hard to support others – allowing them to tell their stories about living in one of Britain’s most deprived areas and suffering the devastating effect of deindustrialization.” 

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For the full article buy the new issue of Radio Times magazine, on sale from Tuesday 18th November in the shops and on Newsstand for iPad or iPhone