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Posted on Fri 17th Jan, 2014 in: Industry Comment, Influence, Public Relations by Tim Downs

Our influencer of the week goes to Love Productions, the makers of the oh-so-controversial 'Benefits Street'. We had a debate over whether it should be the producers of the show or the residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham, its actual stars. For the uninitiated amongst you, Benefits Street follows many of the residents of the 99 houses that make up the street, most of whom, as you would expect from the title of the show, receive some form of state handout. The cast of characters includes White Dee, Black Dee, Fungi, 50p Man and Becky and Mark, the couple with three children who were on benefits, but had them withdrawn for benefit fraud. Our influencer award goes to Love Productions because, since the first show aired, they have managed to singularly unite all aspects of British society in complete outrage - including the residents of the street themselves. So far a petition to have the show removed from air has received over 45,000 signatures and over 100 leading charities have signed a letter accusing the programme makers and Channel 4 of heaping "shame and distress"? on millions of sick, disabled and low paid people. Even the residents have demanded an apology and accused Love Productions staff of misleading them. But on the flip side, it's Channel 4's most popular show since the London Paralympics, dragging in 5.1million viewers for last Monday night's show. And, in a pretty unprecedented move, Channel 4 has offered right of reply in a live one-hour (bear baiting) programme on 10 February. So whether you believe this 'documentary' series offers a real insight into Britain's benefit culture, or if you think this is a damaging demonisation of the working classes, you'll find it hard not to be moved by its interesting depiction of life on the breadline. But be careful, it's compelling viewing and you probably won't like yourself very much after you've watched it. So come and join us in getting hot under the collar and throwing our slippers at the telly.

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