Wednesday, 15 May 2013

# 64 (2013) Do You Believe?

I've never lived in Scunthorpe. I've never even been to Scunthorpe. And if you've watched 'Skint' on Channel Four you probably won't ever consider going there either. And much like its predecessor 'People Like Us' on BBC Three which was set in Harpurhey, an inner city area of Manchester, it gives a closeted view of one type of person in one specific area.

The programme makers aims are clear. Ratings. Benefits, unemployment and trouble families are high on newsreels and in the minds of working people who are also struggling to make ends meet. And to say there is a little resentment towards their unemployed brethren who just 'hold out their hands for free money' would be an understatement.

TV programme makers thrive off this to create programmes they know viewers will be transfixed to. And even though the programme's subject is very specific it does nothing to enhance the reputation of the area.

Scunthorpe, the only town with a swear word in its name, is probably a very nice town. Perhaps not the Westcliff Estate where 'Skint' is set, but I'm sure there are some very friendly areas. I've been reading various comments and there are people there that love their town dearly. I'm sure Harpurhey also has its fans.

Viewers you see, won't look for the overall picture. They will watch the programmes and tar a community with the same brush. They get fired up and point fingers and so the ratings go up. TV is a very persuasive medium. You can make your programmes aim as open minded or as closed as you like and people will believe what you show them because the camera never lies, right?

But did you know that in 2011 Scunthorpe won a Google award for being the UK's fastest growing online hub? Programmes like this can have a devestating affect on areas already struggling. Of Harpurhey it was noted:

Locals are threatening to picket the BBC’s northern headquarters at MediaCity 
in Salford and claim that children from Harpurhey have been bullied at school, 
appointments at estate agents cancelled and young people turned down for 
jobs since the series began airing earlier this month. 

And no matter what the subjects of the programmes see or tell programme makers during filming, it can be a very different result once it goes on air. If you allow a documentary to be made about you, don't necessarily think you'll be portrayed in a balanced way. Once they have the material programme makers they can do pretty much what they want with it within reason. So watcher beware and don't always believe what the TV tells you. 

Harpurhey residents. But is everyone like this? (source)


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