Benefits Street: Comedian Frank Skinner turned down narrating job - News - TV & Radio - The Independent

Benefits Street: Comedian Frank Skinner turned down narrating job

The comedian did not want to offend residents dependent on benefits

Comedian Frank Skinner turned down a narrating job on Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street because he did not want to criticise Birmingham on television.

The Room 101 host grew up just outside the city in Oldbury, and was wary of how the show planned to present local people.

Skinner was asked by the broadcaster to do the voice-over after being told that the series would explore “community spirit” in Winson Green’s impoverished James Turner Street.

But he told the Birmingham Mail that he had refused the offer as he did not want involve himself in “something where I’m derogatory about people from Birmingham”.

“I imagine there would be a lot of awkward moments in the recording studio when I said, ‘I’m not going to say that’,” he explained. “They only showed me a very small part of a five-episode series, and I wondered what the rest would be like.”

Benefits Street Twitter reactions: The angry, the idiotic and the defensive

“I care what people from Birmingham think about me, which is why I didn’t want to do Benefits Street,” he added. “I haven’t seen the programme yet, but from what I’ve heard I think I made the right decision.”

Becky Howe claims friends 'disowned' her after the show aired Becky Howe claims friends 'disowned' her after the show aired Channel 4 has yet to respond to requests for comment, but a spokesperson has defended Benefits Street, describing it as a “sympathetic, human and objective portrayal of how people are coping with continuing austerity and cuts in benefits”.

Channel 4 boss denies show's residents were duped

When Benefits Street first aired last Monday, close to 400 complaints were made to Ofcom and Channel 4. Some viewers were angered at the criminal activity shown on the programme, which included blatant shoplifting, while others were concerned by the negative portrayal of the street’s struggling residents.

Thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that Channel 4 drops the rest of the series and a police probe has been launched by West Midlands Police.

The petition was the idea of former Birmingham bus driver Arshad Mahmood, who said Benefits Street gave a misleading impression.

“I’m concerned about how much hatred any further episode is going to create,” he told The Independent.

Thousands sign petition urging Channel 4 to drop Benefits Street

Last week, it was reported that the show’s cast believed they had been “tricked” into appearing on Benefits Street by producers.

Fungi and his dog in Channel 4's Benefits Street Fungi and his dog in Channel 4's Benefits Street Qualified support worker Dee Roberts, mother of three Charlene Wilson and local resident Nikitta Bell were 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 said. "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."

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".

Last night’s episode of Benefits Street considered the impact of the arrival of Eastern European immigrants on the street. Despite the controversy, the second show attracted an average audience of over five million - one million more than the debut - making it Channel 4's most-watched programme in over a year.

Read more:
As Benefits Street shows, we are quick to demonise and slow to understand
For press and broadcasters, coverage of immigration involves some of the hardest judgement calls of all
House for sale in James Turner Street, Birmingham
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week