In Depth

Immigration Street: will C4 'car crash' lead to change?

Makers of Benefits Street were run out of town while they filmed a sequel about immigration

Channel 4's Immigration Street, a new documentary from the makers of Benefits Street, has been branded "a car crash" by some critics, while others credit it with unintentionally stimulating a necessary debate about media misrepresentation.

The show was set to be a follow-up to the channel's previous hit series, Benefits Street, this time chronicling the lives of people on Derby Road, in a deprived part of Southampton, where just 17 per cent identify themselves as "white British".

But a community backlash forced Love Productions to abandon the idea of a series and settle for a one-hour documentary.

The Daily Telegraph reports that during production a man speaking to the film crew was pelted with stones by a local gang. Members of the gang also threatened to shoot staff, demanded protection money, and slashed a crew worker's tyres. In the end security consultants advised producers to cut filming short.

The Times television critic Andrew Billen calls the show "a car crash". It was beset by the legitimate concerns of some residents and the illegitimate intimidation of some others, the goading of the press and the opportunism of politicians, says Billen, and in the end "only the traces of an interesting programme about ethnic diversity remained".

Billen goes on to ask whether Channel 4 realised how alarming the show's title might be following the Benefits Street rows. But he also wonders if we have found "a whole new form of racism, its victims the media tribe?"

In The Guardian, Sam Wollaston says it was hard to tell who actually lived on Derby Road "because most of them have fuzzed-out heads on television". "I'm calling it Pixelation Street," he adds. "There aren't many consent forms being signed around here."

But if shutting down the show was "a victory for the people over the media twats from London", it was a hollow one, says Wollaston. "There are no real winners here."

Gerard O'Donovan in the Daily Telegraph disagrees, saying that while producers only got enough footage for one programme "before they were run out of town", it turned out to be "a fascinating hour of television all the same, if in ways never intended".

While the show "may have added little of substance to the debate on immigration", says O'Donovan, "it certainly added greatly to the debate over TV 'poverty porn'."

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