Not watching a great deal of television, the likes of Jeremy Kyle are programmes I’ve only glanced at when channel hopping. But I despair of “poverty porn” as it’s described, enticing desperate and sad people before humiliating and belittling them.
I appreciate it has far higher audience figures than the types of programmes that I watch. So, whilst I disdain the anti-intellectualism that pervades much of the mass media, I accept that popular entertainment programmes can be both forces for good, as well as just good to watch.
But the Jeremy Kyle show and its ilk cross a line. They can ruin individuals lives as appears to have happened recently. More worryingly they reinforce a perception of the poor as feckless and idle, if not idiotic. Those selected to appear are often chosen in the knowledge of how they’ll appear or react.
Yet that’s not the truth of the matter except for a few individuals. Knowing poor and challenged areas well, these people are very much the exception and even considered oddities there.
On Sunday I was out for a meal with my friend Paul Laverty the film writer of “I, Daniel Blake” that excoriated the heartlessness of the benefits system.
Fiction that may have been but it’s much closer to reality than Kyle and other such shows. He’s off to Cannes with his new film on the gig economy and hopefully it’ll have the same awareness-raising effect. For that, not reality TV, is life in modern Britain for far too many.