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.”
Top 10 most complained about TV programmes of 2014
Top 10 most complained about TV programmes of 2014
1/9 1. Big Brother - Channel 5 - 3,784 complaints
Helen Wood caused outrage when she was accused of bullying other contestants on Big Brother
2/9 2. Celebrity Big Brother - Channel 5 - 1,874 complaints
Hollywood star Gary Busey drew plenty of complaints on this year's celebrity version of Big Brother
3/9 4. Benefits Street - Channel 4 - 967 complaints
This Channel 4 documentary featuring White Dee was accused of exploiting those on benefits for TV entertainment
4/9 5. Coronation Street - ITV - 367 complaints
The gay kiss between Todd Grimshaw (Bruno Langley) and Marcus Dent (Charlie Condou) prompted complaints from Corrie viewers.
5/9 6. The X Factor - ITV - 360 complaints
Some people think The X Factor makes fun of less fortunate people by showing their bad auditions
6/9 7. EastEnders - BBC 1 - 316 complaints
Kellie Bright and Matt Di Angelo as Linda Carter and Dean Wicks in EastEnders
7/9 8. Emmerdale - ITV - 243 complaints
Violence on the ITV soap has prompted complaints this year
8/9 9. Sky News (20/07/14) - 205 complaints
Sky's Colin Brazier has aplogised for rummaging through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
9/9 10. Channel 4 News - 193 complaints
Some complaints about Channel 4 News centred around presenter Jon Snow's fashion choices - seriously
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
W1A – BBC2
Sally Wainwright - Last Tango In Halifax and Happy Valley for BBC1
Sheridan Smith - Cilla Black in Cilla & Claire Webster in The Widower, both ITV
Toby Jones - Neil Baldwin in Marvellous & Lance in Detectorists BBC4
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
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