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.”
“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 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”.
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.
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 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.
For press and broadcasters, coverage of immigration involves some of the hardest judgement calls of all
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Russian officials ban yoga because it's too much like a religious cult
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 Ginger Pride festival to take place next summer, organisers say 'time of bullying gingers is over'
- 5 Facebook rainbow profile pictures likely being tracked by social network
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
Guillaume Tell gang-rape scene causes uproar at the Royal Opera House
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS