Benefits Street residents subjected to death threats after Channel 4 show airs
Viewers posted abusive messages online when the documentary was broadcast
Police are investigating death threats made against five members of the public who starred in Channel 4’s latest documentary Benefits Street.
The first episode of the Birmingham-based show, which focuses on the poor residents of James Turner Street in Winson Green, aired on Monday night.
Shortly after the broadcast began, aggressive and abusive messages were posted on social media by viewers enraged at the 'benefits spongers' presented on the programme.
"I want to walk down #BenefitsStreet with a baseball bat and brain a few of these scumbags," read one tweet, while another wrote: "Set fire to #Benefits Street".
Watching benefits street from last night, such scrounging bastards
— annie x (@annie_neary) January 7, 2014
Vicksterrrrr (@princessvicks82) January 7, 2014
A spokesperson from the West Midlands Police has confirmed that the force are investigating threats made against the cast as well as criminality committed in front of the camera.
Others who tuned in defended the Benefits Street residents and criticised Channel 4 for stereotyping people dependent on benefits.
just caught up with #benefitsstreet on 4OD and all I can say is, manipulative journalism and filming— Sarah (@SJ_bluerose) January 7, 2014
how about a documentary following around wealthy mps as they spend tax payers money? #benefitsstreet(@miffedmingrat) January 7, 2014
1 minute and 15 seconds into Benefits Street and I can already tell channel 4 have picked the worst bits to broadcast.— stacey heydon. (@staceeeyyyy) January 7, 2014
Earlier this week, it was reported that the show's stars believed they had been "tricked" into appearing on Benefits Street by Channel 4 producers.
Qualified support worker Dee Roberts, mother of three Charlene Wilson and local resident Nikitta Bell are among those angry about their portrayal on the programme - largely as unemployed scroungers, drug abusers, irresponsible parents and potty-mouths.
"They said they wanted to film for a TV show about how great community spirit is in the street and how we all help each other out on a daily basis," Roberts told the Birmingham Mail. "I participated in the show on that belief, but this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It makes people out as complete scum.
"They lied to us from the very beginning. We opened our doors and hearts to them and they violated us and abused our trust."
Two other 'stars' of Benefits Street, self-confessed alcoholic Fungi and his dog Becky Howe, 23, is also "fuming" over her presentation on Benefits Street. "Half of my family and friends have already disowned me because of it," she said. "Some want me to change my name on Deed Poll. We might be on benefits but everyone has got to start somewhere."
Her partner Mark Thomas added: "I'm on benefits at the moment but that’s because I'm training to be a security guard. They want to make us look uneducated."
Channel 4 has hit back at complaints, describing their documentary as "fair and balanced" and ensuring viewers that all contributors were "briefed extensively before any filming took place".
A section on the Channel 4 dedicated to Benefits Street states: "As austerity continues to bite, jobs remain hard to come by and benefits are squeezed, this observational documentary series reveals the reality of life on benefits.
"The series follows residents of ‘Benefits Street’ as they navigate their way through life on the bottom rung of Britain’s economic ladder (…) this is a place where people look out for each other and where small acts of kindness can go a long way."
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre