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Controversial Benefits Street 'not in breach' of Ofcom's rules

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Controversial Benefits Street 'not in breach' of Ofcom's rules

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Regulation

Controversial Benefits Street 'not in breach' of Ofcom's rules Controversial Benefits Street 'not in breach' of Ofcom's rules

The controversial Channel 4 show 'Benefits Street' has been ruled 'not in breach' of Ofcom's rules.

Ofcom received 887 complaints about the programme from members of the public who believed that it presented benefit claimants in a negative light.

The TV watchdog received an additional 40 complaints that the show demonstrated certain criminal techniques.

And 23 people expressed concern about the due care taken over the physical and emotional welfare and dignity of children who featured in the programme.

The six-part series centred around the lives of people living on a Birmingham road where the majority of residents are said to be claiming state welfare.

The documentary was praised by works and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and was a huge ratings success for Channel 4.

Ofcom said that it considered the complaints of the show's "negative and offensive" portrayal of benefits claimants against Rule 2.3 of its code.

Ofcom said: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context…”

The watchdog's view was that some of the material in the series was capable of causing offence to viewers, and therefore went on to assess whether the nature of the series provided sufficient context to justify this offence.

Ofcom noted the series was intended to be a reflection of a particular community living on one street in Britain where the majority of residents were dependent upon benefits and where there was one of the highest levels of long term unemployment in England.

The beginning of every episode included an introduction in which the narrator stated: “James Turner Street in Birmingham is not your average street…and most of the residents are claiming benefits.”

Ofcom concluded that the aim of the series was therefore presented as being a record of the daily lives of the residents to inform viewers about their lives and their community.

The watchdog found that it would have been clear to viewers, over the course of the series, that it was an observational documentary about the experiences of one community.

Ofcom said: "Therefore, after careful consideration, we concluded that overall Channel 4 ensured there was sufficient context over the course of the series to justify the offence and that it applied generally accepted standards."

Ofcom found that the complaints did not raise issues warranting further investigation.

Channel 4 has said that it will bring the show back for a second series, writing on its website: "Benefits Street will return and we would like to hear from other people on similar streets."

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