Homeless attack 'win-a-house' TV game show (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online
CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 27 FEBRUARY 1993) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

CHANNEL 4's politically correct executives yesterday felt the wrath of Britain's homeless after plans were revealed for a game show in which homeless people compete for a luxury home.

The programme, Come On Down and Out, has been commissioned as part of Gimme Shelter, a two-week season on homelessness, but it has been branded as 'horrific' and 'tasteless' by those working with the homeless.

Joanne Mallabar, deputy editor of the Big Issue, a newspaper sold by homeless people, described the programme as sensationalist.

'They claim they are trying to raise awareness about homelessness but it seems rather ridiculous and tasteless to do it like this. Raising awareness is fine but you have to draw the line somewhere. This is making a joke of homeless people.'

Danielle Rafer, 19, who has been living on the streets of London for nearly two years, said she knew people who would take part for the chance to win the home. She said she would never take part as it was exploiting homeless people.

Nick Hardwick, director of Centrepoint, a charity working with young homeless people, has given Channel 4 advice on the Gimme Shelter season, which includes documentaries, films and educational programmes exploring the desperate straits of many homeless people. But Mr Hardwick had no knowledge of Come On Down and Out and described it as 'appalling'.

'It's horrific. Homelessness is not a laughing matter. A game show can only trivialise it, decreasing people's knowledge of the issue, not increasing it,' he said.

'I wonder how much it is costing to make? If they are so concerned they ought to give the money to a homeless charity instead.'

The programme has been commissioned from the independent production company Kudos, which is run by Stephen Garrett, former commissioning editor for youth programmes at Channel 4.

Mr Garrett, whose researchers are trying to find appropriate contestants, has insisted that they will not all be 'miserable alcoholics sleeping in doorways', but include businessmen who have had their homes repossessed.

Channel 4 yesterday declined to explain the rationale behind Come On Down and Out. John Willis, director of programmes and Mr Garrett, both appear to have been taken by surprise at the level of hostility towards the programme and refused to comment. But the channel admitted that it had not yet purchased the house and that it may yet change the programme's title.

A spokesman said: 'It will go ahead, it will be a game show, but we can't guarantee who will be on it. We want to prick some consciences.'

The idea for the programme first landed on Mr Garrett's desk after a young film-maker's contest on the theme of homelessness run by the Independent in association with Shelter, the housing charity, last summer. Although there was no winner, one script that was commended involved a parody of a television game show in which homeless 'victims' are booed off as scroungers or may win a dream home.

CORRECTION

In a report on a Channel 4 programme Come on Down and Out on 13 February, we incorrectly stated that there was no outright winner of the Independent/Shelter/Channel 4 young film-makers contest. In fact, the contest was won by Rebecca Jones, whose script formed the basis of the programme.

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