Benefits Street: stars of C4 series get death threats

Residents say TV company 'tricked' them into appearing in show that makes them look like 'spongers'

LAST UPDATED AT 12:01 ON Tue 7 Jan 2014

CHANNEL FOUR has been accused of "hate mongering" after the participants in its new documentary series Benefits Street received death threats on social media. 

The first episode of the five-part series went to air last night, introducing viewers to some of the residents of Birmingham's James Turner Street. Some of those who took part are outraged by the programme, which they say makes them out to be "anti-social benefit scroungers, irresponsible parents, drug takers and foul-mouthed wasters", the Birmingham Mail reports.

The residents say Channel 4 producers "tricked" them into appearing on the programme with assurances the series would be about "neighbourly togetherness and community spirit".

Instead, Benefits Street portrays them as "Britain's worst state spongers", the Birmingham Mail says. The result was a social media backlash that saw them threatened with violence and labelled "scum". One Twitter user threatened: "I want to walk down #BenefitsStreet with a baseball bat and brain a few of these scumbags."

The Mail says West Midlands Police will investigate some of the threats made online. But its officers will also "investigate any criminality which may have been committed [by the show's participants] in front of the camera", the paper says.

The Mail says some of the programme participants have also accused the production company behind the series, Love Productions, of "recording and broadcasting private phone calls without permission and are now considering legal action".

Dee Roberts, a qualified mentor and support worker, who makes frequent appearances in the series, told the paper: "They said that 'Britain was broken' but that I lived in an area where the community was very close. I participated in the show on that belief."

A Channel 4 spokesman told the Daily Mirror: "This is a fair and balanced observational documentary series. It is a fair reflection of the reality of life on a street where the majority of households receive benefits."

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