Benefits Street Live Debate v The Big British Immigration Row

Rowdy pundits drown out debates in TV scheduling battle

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The Independent Culture

It was the television schedule clash only Ukip voters could have dreamt of, as Channel 4’s Benefits Street Live Debate went head to head with The Big British Immigration Row: Live on Channel 5 last night.

But, aside from rehearsing hackneyed opinions cobbled up by the usual TV pundits - including Katie Hopkins, the shows did little more than provide a platform for people to shout at each other.

Benefits Street Live Debate proved as rambling and unfocused as the documentary that sparked the hour-long studio show, with 'neutral' host Richard Bacon veering across topics and adding his own opinions Jeremy Kyle-style.

The 'them' and 'us' audience division of benefits claimants sat opposite well-educated journalists seemed like another ploy from Channel 4 to stoke the embers of the debate, and did little to stop the endless shouting that drowned out the speakers.

Channel 5's Immigration Row: Live was a more orderly affair by comparison, but also played too obviously into the hands of the awaiting Twitterati.

With a rotating panel every advert break, it was hard to keep track of the number of publicity-courting pundits who claimed suddenly to have an opinion about the state of immigration in Britain.

Immigration Row 22.jpg

The Guests

Immigration Row: Live included professional motor-mouth Katie Hopkins, fellow Apprentice runner-up Luisa Zissman, and - even more randomly - Nancy Dell'Olio.

Even 'former prospective Tory MP' pop star Adam Rickitt had something to say on the issue, urging British people to blame the immigration system and not the immigrants.

Katie Hopkins predictably delivered the most shocking and un-PC statement of the night, telling the audience: "I've always said if you go into a school playground and shout Mohammad, you'll probably get 100 children running towards you!"


Benefits Street Live Debate on the other hand had just two panel members sat at the front of the crowded auditorium in Birmingham, minister of State for Work and Pensions Mike Penning MP, and shadow minister Chris Bryant MP.

Chris Bryant embarrassed himself from the start by admitting he had never watched or heard much about the show, and had caught up on the first three episodes that morning.

The two politicians did their best to centre the debate on policy, but were too often shouted down by other members of the audience, including strange off-topic interjections about the price of diesel versus petrol.

The Best Moment

Immigration Row: Live - When Katie Hopkins stopped talking

Benefits Street Live Debate - White Dee saying she would run for parliament (before taking it back)


Twitter reaction

Both shows succeeded in getting 'the nation talking', but ultimately seemed like a desperate attempt on behalf of both channels to up their ratings rather than host an orderly debate.

Watch Iain Duncan Smith discuss Benefits Street