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TV hate merchants face mass protest

Benefit St makers targeted over shoddy hatchet job on Britain's poorest

Protesters from across Britain demonstrated yesterday outside the London offices of the TV production company which produced the "hatchet job" programme Benefit Street.

The Unite union's community arm mobilised members to protest outside Love Productions, accusing it of misrepresenting and exploiting the issue of poverty in a "cynical grab for ratings."

Channel 4 provoked outrage and faced a storm of complaints after it began airing the series filmed on a Birmingham street.

Benefit claimants were conned into taking part believing that the programme would expose the problems and hardship resulting from the coalition government's vicious austerity policies.

But the series is an undisguised attack on people forced to rely on benefits to survive and interviews were edited to portray participants in the worst possible light.

Demonstrators accused the programme makers of mindlessly supporting the government's divisive attack on families who need support as a result of record unemployment and spiralling prices.

They want Love Productions to meet the community affected to better understand concerns and discuss how to help repair the damage caused by the show.

Unite community co-ordinator Pilgrim Tucker said: "Benefit Street is the latest in a long line of exploitative television shows that misrepresent communities in a cynical grab for ratings.

"Love Productions and Channel 4 have served up yet another exploitative, heavily edited, hatchet job of a show.

"Rather than shine a spotlight on the millions of families that are really struggling as a result of the recession and government austerity, they have sought out vulnerable, desperate people and served them up for entertainment."

Yesterday's protest, which included Birmingham residents, was mobilised from among Unite's community branches - set up to recruit people not in a workplace, including students, the unemployed and people surviving on benefits.

They receive training on organising campaigns such as those in support of the NHS and against the bedroom tax.

Disabled People Against Cuts also backed the demonstration because "a lot of what is going on in Benefit Street happens to disabled people," explained co-founder Eleanor Lisney.

"Disabled people are not just people in wheelchairs or who are blind. There are hidden disabilities which prevent people having jobs.

"They are deemed scroungers because they are not in a wheelchair.

"Some disabled people are afraid to go out because they are frightened of being labelled scroungers."

Ms Tucker added: "We have organised this protest to show the makers of Benefit Street that we are not going to allow them to get away with the gross misrepresentation of working-class communities."


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