In recent years there seems to have been a greater focus on programming that covers topics that involve illness, disability & social deprivation.
It’s not a new phenomenon, these types of programs have always popped
up from time to time & it’s well known that what the media shows us
of these times may not be the reality but often will instead show the
attitudes of society.
I’m very divided on these shows, I love documentaries, I will watch
documentaries that are controversial & opposite even to my beliefs.
The reason why, is that I firmly believe that the instant we cut
ourselves off from knowledge, from the possibility that we may be wrong,
we will never learn anything new.
I know that some people didn’t like the way that these shows had been
filmed, I know these ‘shows’ have ranged vastly from benefit bashing tv
made solely for entertainment to valuable insights to what the disabled
& disadvantaged are facing at that time but also the public’s
Unfortunately through over reporting of certain issues, certain
sections of the media have given the false impression that fraud is
rife, that there needs to be a crackdown on the ‘wave’ of benefit cheats
but ‘real’ disabled people will always be protected. Unfortunately
there is also a further section of society that believe that benefits
should only be given to the ‘housebound’ because if people can get out
of the house then why don’t they get a job? People don’t understand how
exhausting it is to function as a disabled person & that no two are
alike. They look at the surface & no deeper.
I know that some didn’t like Channel 4 referring to Paralympic
athletes as ‘Superhuman’. It has unintentionally, to a degree resulted
in people becoming more misguided, believing that Paralympic athletes
have got ‘passed’ their disabilities because they were just more
determined to succeed. Whereas in reality these Paralympians rely
heavily on support behind the scenes & benefits to get them where
they are. And that it’s not because one simply tries harder but more
that a disability can effect many individuals, in many ways & not
even to mention the fact that disabled people may not want to do
athletics but instead may be a talented writer or artist. I still
however think they are awesome for what they do.
I really enjoyed The Last Leg, the hilarity & stupidity of
things. I loved how the show tried to engage with people with the show’s
“Is it ok ?” questions such as “Is it ok to punch their friend in a
wheelchair if he’s a n00b ?”.
Then you have 999, What’s Your Emergency, that highlighted
beautifully how much strain the ambulance service is under & how
much more it will be in the future due to the significant NHS &
welfare cuts which will mean that even more people will likely fall
through the net.
But unfortunately any good work that is done on one show can be undone on the next.
BBC’s Saints & Scroungers always shows two cases of benefit fraud
to the one ‘Saint’ helping those to get the benefits they need.
Although it is great that these people help in times of crisis, there is
no disclaimer to explain how low the rates of benefit fraud are &
that the show’s ratio is in no way representative of actual statistics.
Then you have Channel 4’s programme “Benefit Britain 1949”.
Now I’m ‘sure’ that Channel 4 were trying to show that the welfare
budget can’t be carelessly cut & that people have been & are
being affected by cuts detrimentally. That although the original system
was much more tailored towards the individual, a good thing, it was only
supporting those they deemed ‘deserving’. Unfortunately when reading
peoples’ reactions to these types of programmes on Twitter, this is a
theme that keeps cropping up. Unfortunately I think this show whilst
trying to show why we had moved on instead gave more titbits to those
that believe all the inaccuracies.
Also it was a different system to today, a different time,
society isn’t the same & so consequently, it was often out of
context. I also found it odd that the show split the claimants into
‘sickness’ & ‘disabled’ categories as often these go hand in hand.
Yes, it did not help matters that the sickness claimant came across
as little miss gobby, very rude & aggressive, hardly the average
claimant but this may have come across a lot worse due to editing.
However I can not stress how much my heart sank when I saw how people
with less visible illnesses were being portrayed through this women.
It’s a shame that they didn’t chose someone else that could have
highlighted truly how debilitating a invisible condition can be, as this
is something that it seems the general public fail to understand.
Then there was the programme ‘We Pay Your Benefits’ which saw tax
payers following claimants to more or less ‘judge’ what they feel is
acceptable for people to buy & do using their benefits. People now
have obstinate objections to people having mobile phones, internet &
family pets. These previously weren’t seen as a luxury with the
exception of probably family pets but people seemed to understand that
people mostly had family pets before becoming unemployed &
understood they were a key part of the family & a massive comfort.
Also mobile phones & internet were seen as a necessity & now
people believe that they are a luxury. It seems so illogical in this day
& age where mobile phones & internet are such an integral part
in life that people can think this way. I found it sad that people seem
to have lost sight that the system we have supports the people in our
society who need it the most, that it is there for them in case the
worse did happen & that fraud is low.
And finally we have Channel 4’s ‘Benefit Street’ which if you were to
believe was typical representation of people claiming benefits, which
by the looks of Twitter a lot did, the majority of claimants would be
committing benefit fraud, shoplifting & growing cannabis in their
spare room to pay the bedroom tax. There were death threats after the
show on social media & the whole filming of the show lacked
responsibility. However it did highlight how you can’t just simply beat
people with a rod & expect them to change, people need opportunities
& the right help, but also some people just won’t change, that’s
The second episode showed immigration in the UK. It highlighted the
racism & the inaccurate beliefs like they can earn £2,500 a day.
However it also showed how immigrates without permission to work are so
easily exploited & how when they report this to the police, they
fear major retaliation but many people on social networking sites again
didn’t see this, instead fixated on inaccuracies.
The third episode followed a young family with children. It portrayed
a young couple that seemed to struggle with parenting. Its not a
surprise that the kids behaviour was challenging when given a sugar
coated cereal at midnight, with one parent telling the other to f**k
themselves & ‘Fungi’ & other drunken idiots outside the front
door creating a bad influence. But because of the way this documentary
was filmed & because a proportion of society that seems to think if
they witness one thing happening on TV, that this some how means that
this is representative of everybody in the same situation. Just because a
child has either a single parent or young parents does not mean that
they’re not going to bring up their children correctly & the rest of
parents out there have just as much chance of messing up the child’s up
bringing or not as anyone else.
The episode did also show that the couple was trying to improve their
child’s behaviour, although I doubt how much of the public remembered
that as much & a later article stated that the couple have learning
difficulties which isn’t mentioned in the show.
I understand why people are upset about about these “documentaries”,
some are upset that documentaries on these topics happen at all, others
are upset that a valuable opportunity to highlight a issue has been lost
in favour of being exploitive & creating “entertainment” instead of
a documentary. In these cases they usually lack the full facts, are
shown out of context & people within the disabled community face the
backlash as a consequence.
However if we don’t discuss these issues we will never move forward but
the public needs to be more aware that it is impossible to produce a
doumentary that isn’t bias in some way because the individual is bias
& that viewers should show more common sense & take these shows
with a pinch of salt. It is also up to film makers to always maintain a
level of detachment in making a documentary & to make sure, as much
as possible, that the topic is portrayed in a true & balanced light.
I think there were many failings in making Benefit Street,
particularly the disclosure of the actual street name which made these
people more of a target so much so that a number of the residents have
been moved. Also that it was made by an outside third party company,
that they obviously lost control over it but they had responsibility to
air it or not.
With the airing of Benefit Street it has shown that certain sections
of the media have become so toxic over the subject of welfare but this
is only allowed to continue because people blindly believe in these
misrepresentations. If people on benefits & the disabled were
instead an individual, in certain countries I have no doubt that they
would be pulled up on slander or for liable way before now.
The fourth episode airs tonight to be followed by a final episode
& TV debate which is supposed to let the participants have their say
unfortunately we will have to wait to see if this is a intelligent
discussion or if this becomes just more viewing fodder.
It has taken me a while to write this as I hadn’t intended on
writing this much in the beginning but have been adding to it little by
little as more and more shows have been produced. Originally it was
supposed to be on the first ones I watched but as time goes on there
seems to have been an increase in this type of programming & I
thought it interesting to note the effect of all these shows combined .
With this increase it seems like certain sections of the public have
lost sight that the fraud rates are low & that this system is in
place to assist in times of need, as it should be. They seem content on
judging on face value & not realising they don’t have the full facts
at hand, how would you like this if it was done to you?