Benefits Street: 5m tune in to watch episode two

The second episode of the controversial series attracted 1m more viewers

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The Independent Culture

Despite the controversy surrounding Benefits Street, the second episode managed to add nearly a million viewers last night, pulling in an audience of over 5 million.

The show, which has been labelled “poverty porn”, has attracted widespread criticism, including nearly 1,000 complaints to Ofcom and a petition signed by over 30,000 people urging Channel 4 to drop the programme.

But last night, an average 5.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the second episode, which saw the residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham prepare for a Britain in Bloom competition.

The show received 20.8 per cent of the audience share between 9pm and 10pm, beating ITV drama The Bletchley Circle, and BBC 1’s Panorama.

Last week’s debut episode received 4.3 million viewers with a share of 17.2 per cent of the audience, making it Channel 4’s most-watched programme in over a year.

The broadcaster has stood by the programme, which is produced by Love Productions, saying it is a “fair and balanced observational documentary series”.

The campaign urging the broadcaster to scrap the programme launched soon after the first episode, claiming the show unfairly demonised people who received benefits.

While the first episode focused on crime, last night’s instalment followed two sets of Romanian immigrants living on the street.

The Independent’s TV critic Ellen E Jones said the episode was an improvement on last week’s, with “at least some attempts to challenge myths and confront prejudices about society's most marginalised people, instead of lazily reinforcing them”.

The five-part series is set to finish its run on Channel 4 in early February.

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