Benefits Street and Sheridan Smith's Cilla win at Broadcasting Press Guild Awards 2015

Winners list in full (below)

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The Independent Culture

The producers of the controversial Channel 4 series Benefits Street claimed vindication after the programme took a prestigious documentary award.

The series, aired last year, revealed the reality of life on James Turner Street in Winson Green, Birmingham, one of Britain's most deprived streets.

The fly-on-the-wall show made a star of resident Dierdre Kelly, aka White Dee, but it was accused of exploiting residents and branded “poverty porn” by some viewers.

However Benefits Street was named Best Documentary Series at the Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG) Awards, held in London on Friday, beating Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Police Custody and an ITV investigation into Broadmoor hospital.

The award, voted for by television critics and media industry writers, vindicated Love Productions, the company behind the series, which argued that Benefit Street was an “incredibly sensitive and incredibly sympathetic series to the people who we filmed.”

A sequel, Immigration Street, supposed to be a six-part series set on the ethnically diverse Derby Road in Southampton, was reduced to a one-hour special after filming was disrupted by angry residents and threats of violence.

The 41st BPG awards, held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, confirmed the popularity of “biopic” dramas based on real people’s lives.

Sheridan Smith took the best actress award for her performance as the young Cilla Black in the ITV drama Cilla. She was also recognised for her role as real-life murder victim Claire Webster in the ITV drama serial, The Widower.

Ms Smith, who turned up too late to accept her National Television Award for drama performance for Cilla because she was stuck in a cab, was given a week’s notice of the BPG prize.

The actress will next be seen in The C Word, a BBC drama based on a popular blog written by Lisa Lynch, after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Toby Jones was named best actor for his role as Neil Baldwin, the relentlessly upbeat kit-man at Stoke City Football Club, whose life was dramatised in Marvellous on BBC2. Marvellous also won the award for best single drama.

The “biopic” wins follow Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar for his portrayal of Prof Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

The Honourable Woman, the BBC2 political thriller starring Maggie Gyllenhaal as a businesswoman haunted by her past, directed and written by Hugo Blick, won best drama series.

Forty years after his television debut in New Faces, Lenny Henry received the Harvey Lee Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting. The award recognised Henry’s contribution to Comic Relief, which began 30 years ago, and also his campaign for greater diversity in broadcasting, which is starting to change policies at the UK’s major broadcasters.

The BBC spoof series W1A took the Comedy award whilst the award for Innovation in Broadcasting, went to Vice News, the online start-up which was set up in London only a year ago as part of Vice Media, and which has produced ground-breaking reports on the world's trouble zones for young audiences.

The BPG Breakthrough Award went to the brothers Harry and Jack Williams, who wrote the hit BBC One drama series, The Missing, about a father’s obsessive search for his abducted son.

Winners list in full:

Best Factual Entertainment 

Gogglebox – C4

Best Single Drama

Marvellous – BBC2

Best Drama Series

The Honourable Woman – BBC2

Best Single Documentary

Baby P: The Untold Story - BBC 1

Best Documentary Series

Benefits Street – C4

Best Multichannel Programme

Crackanory - UKTV Dave

Radio Programme of the Year

Germany: Memories of A Nation - BBC Radio 4

Radio Broadcaster of the Year

Jane Garvey - Woman’s Hour R4

Best Entertainment/Comedy

W1A – BBC2

Writer’s Award

Sally Wainwright  - Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley for BBC1

Best Actress

Sheridan Smith - Cilla Black in Cilla & Claire Webster in The Widower, both ITV

Best Actor

Toby Jones - Neil Baldwin in Marvellous & Lance in Detectorists BBC4

Breakthrough Award

Harry and Jack Williams, writers of The Missing  - BBC1

Innovation in Broadcasting Award

Vice News for The Islamic State and other original commissions

Harvey Lee Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting

Lenny Henry

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