Entertainment

Reality TV Show Starring Welfare Recipients Sparks Controversy (Video)

| by Michael Allen

A new TV reality series called "Benefits Street" stars welfare recipients, which include a former drug addict, a shoplifter (who steals on camera), a woman who faces eviction and a young couple who struggle to feed their children.

While that might sound depressing, the show is actually a big hit in the UK (video below).

Benefits Street is actually James Turner Street in a poor area of Birmingham, England.

The show follows the lives of these people and their jobless neighbors over five episodes, which have been called "poverty porn," notes the Associated Press.

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Welfare is a hot button in the UK where benefits have been slashed and many older citizens don't think younger people deserve public assistance. 

Prime Minister David Cameron's government recently announced plans to cut another $20 billion from the welfare budget.

"Benefits Street" reportedly confirms stereotypes of people on welfare being lazy and crooked. There have even been death threats made against the stars of the show on social media sites, reports Channel 4.

"On television the lowest common denominator is to get viewers, so you get the extreme end of the spectrum," Abigail Scott Paul, of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the Associated Press. "These shows present poor people as characters in a soap opera."

However, Channel 4, which airs the program, claims it's not exploitive and just shows reality in an area with high unemployment rates.

"This series gives a voice to the disenfranchised and some of those who have been hit hardest by austerity," says Nick Mirsky, of Channel 4. "It was not undertaken lightly."

There is a petition on Change.org calling for Channel 4 to pull the series and donate money to charity.

Not everyone hates the show. In fact, fans have flocked to the street to take pictures of themselves, reports the Birmingham Mail.

Sources: Change.org, Channel 4, Associated Press, Birmingham Mail