Skint: Class prejudice at its finest

Posted: May 14, 2013 in Blame Culture, child poverty, Class War, Cuts, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North Lincs Homes, Politics, scunthorpe

below is an article about last night’s Skint documentary which I had published on the Scunthorpe Independent news web site earlier today.

The entire hour long program was nothing other than a vicious prejudiced attack on the working classes, the poor, the vulnerable and those with dependency issues made for no purpose other than to increase viewing figures.

Here’s the article in full.

Last night the main stream media proved once again that they are no friends of normal working class people. Not only are Chanel 4 to blame for this, but we should also look to the shocking coverage in the press who’s interest was nothing more than sensationalising the situation to sell more papers in the run up to the show.

 

Many of our readers expressed their concerns when Visit Scunthorpe suggested a year ago that this filming would be negative in its nature and would not reflect well on those who were portrayed in it. Last night this was proved by the biased, one sided attack made on a small group of residents who are clearly in need of help and support, not further victimisation.

 

No effort was made to investigate why these people were in the predicament they were by Chanel 4, rendering the entire 60 minute documentary nothing other than a vicious attack on some of the weakest elements of society in the interests of popular entertainment.

 

Every one accepts that times are hard, but in times such as this, communities should be encouraged to pull together and supporting each other, not going around stigmatizing people in need of help. Unfortunately Channel 4 have played very nicely in to the hands of the governments war on benefits, stigmatising further those with large families, dependency issues and health needs who are not getting the support they need, as these very services are being reduced.

 

And all this in the name of entertainment

 

Sadly, The West Cliff Precinct has become run down over many years and ignored by many administrations, not just the current one. For a long time there has been a rumoured re-development program, but a lack of investors willing to become involved in the scheme has seen the area become more rundown and the shops empty. Shortly before the program aired yesterday, we spoke to North Lincolnshire Homes, and asked them what was being done from their perspective to make improvements on the estate, they provided us with a statement (also carried in the local press) from Steve Hepworth, the director of operations at North Lincolnshire Homes.

 

“We work closely with residents and organisations such as Humberside Police, North Lincolnshire Council and the Safer Neighbourhoods Partnership as well as many other local and voluntary groups to help improve the neighbourhood and the opportunities available to the residents living in the West Cliff area.

 

This joint working approach has seen improvements made to homes and neighbourhoods and reductions in reported ASB incidents  – for example a joint campaign around the use of motorbikes in the area has seen calls reporting motorbikes being used in a nuisance manner to stop.

 

Whilst there are still some problems in the area we are committed to working with the local community to address these and since the beginning of the year action has been taken against a number of residents for breaching their tenancy agreements including action to close down five Cannabis factories.

 

“We will continue to work with our partners to improve the local communities in which our tenants live in and we will take robust action anyone in breach of their tenancy agreements.”

 

Unfortunately Chanel 4 failed to touch on any of the positive improvements there are in the West Cliff area, or the personal triumphs and success stories. For example, on West Cliff a new primary school has been built, community association started, there’s the hub, a support centre for families operated by volunteers, and what’s more, while they were filming the family fun day was on going, not one scene was shown of this.

 

Neither did the program seek to explore some of the down side of West Cliff, it failed to question the state of the precinct, or to investigate why the Library was closed in January 2011 due to “asbestos” and is still closed now, while new facilities have been opened in Broughton, and the estate residents having lost a focal point in their community have to make do with a once a week bus.

 

None of these positives emerged, nor were the important questions about the estate asked, in what was a piece designed to do nothing other than fuel class prejudice towards the vulnerable, the unemployed and those on benefits.

 

We’ve also been talking to a family from Scunthorpe who were filmed, but were then cut from the final footage by Chanel 4. Their story was one of success telling of how one of their family members had been given a place at the Royal Ballet’s Junior Associate Class in Leeds. Speaking to the mother this morning, while wishing to remain nameless, she told Visit Scunthorpe:

 

“As a parent of a boy from Scunthorpe, who was filmed for 8 months last year, I feel he has been very badly let down by channel 4. I must stress though, our issue is not with the film crew, but channel 4.

 

I can’t believe they allowed the filming to carry on with my son, knowing that across the other side of town they were filming prostitutes, drug taking and shoplifting! Foul language, coming from the mouths of children, and every adult.

 

We feel as a family, we were badly mislead into wasting our time, energy and 8 months of our lives.

 

We feel they followed my son and gave him false hope, when they must have known all along which way they were going with this!

 

Shame on you channel 4, Scunthorpe is a good place, and you had perfectly good footage of other stories, that showed the town in a good light, and I’m sure the public would have enjoyed watching those. And Scunthorpe as a whole could have been portrayed so differently!”

 

Another major omission on behalf of Channel 4 was the day in June last year where 27,000 residents lined the streets of Scunthorpe to celebrate the passing of the Olympic Torch through our town.

 

We were inundated by messages of support for the town, and indeed for the families living on the West Cliff estate.

 

Chris Skinner, head of communications at North Lincolnshire Council told us “I don’t mind a critical piece as long as its balanced. There was no balance in that at all. Polarised a town and an estate in the worst possible way. Purposely filmed to look that way. So much for Channel 4 and Keo Films code of ethics. As predicted cut and shut from day one. The majority of Westcliff is NOT like that and neither is Scunthorpe”

 

We think however that episode one was best summed up by Scunthorpe resident David Plumtree who said “Jeremy Kyle isn’t about solving people’s problems, it’s about exploiting them. And similarly, this isn’t a documentary about life on limited means. It’s exploitation.

 

It’s a biased, narrow, manipulated portrayal of a tiny segment of one community that has deliberately edited out good news stories for the purposes of ‘entertainment’. This isn’t Scunthorpe, this isn’t life on benefits, on an estate.  That life is a rich mix of people, a story of neighbours, community and people trying the best they can.

 

Prod people with a stick and you’ll get a reaction. Showing people just one truth of one thousand is misleading, immoral and is just plain shit television.”

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Comments
  1. Anthony Hill says:

    I completely agree with everything you’re saying here. Skint was crafted into a cheap, offensive form of entertainment when it could have been used as a platform for people – good people – to show the government how they’re genuinely struggling to get by. Instead, the focus has been largely put on a minority who make a living off the ‘welfare state’ – it’s just fuelling the tabloids’ fire.

    • thoades says:

      Very true Anthony.

      Through the VisitScunthorpe.Com web site I run a group of us are organising a meeting to counter that image, we are looking firstly for good positive success stories (there were many filmed by C4 but not shown), we also then want to look at what opportunities there are for people in the town and work with businesses and agencies to encourage youth start up businesses and provide mentoring. Keep an eye on Visit Scunthorpe and if you ever fancy contributing an article do let me know, you’d be more than welcome 🙂

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