THE MAN behind a string of controversial documentaries including Benefits Street and Immigration Street has defended the programmes, saying they do not have any “malign intent”.
Channel 4 executive Ralph Lee told the Guardian the shows were made to tell stories about “some of the distressed parts of our society”.
The first series of Benefits Street, filmed in Birmingham, made stars of some of its cast but was described by some critics as “poverty porn”.
The new series, which is filmed in Stockton-on-Tees, was heavily criticised by local politicians who opposed the programme.
Lee, who is head of factual programming at the channel, said some of the opposition was “a form of censorship”.
He said: “We can’t let this kind of criticism have a chilling effect on making programmes. In a way what they are calling for is a form of censorship and I am always really suspicious of that. I defend our right - and the necessity - to tell the stories of some of the distressed parts of our society.”
He admitted that people in Southampton, where Immigration Street is being filmed, were “very split” on the idea of the show.
He said: “Some are very happy to show their lives, others less so, and those who aren’t have received a lot of support and encouragement from everyone from the local MP to community groups.
“Rather than just close the door and ignore it, people have tried to obstruct it. That’s a real shame. They seem to assume there is a malign intent, a guaranteed negative impact of trying to tell the story about immigration and integration. We don’t have a malign intention; there isn’t an agenda.”