Can we Stop Programmes like “Benefits Street”?

Regular readers will be aware that I have for some time been urging social housing providers to help their residents fight back against the wave of negative publicity generated by TV programmes such as “Benefits Street” and “How to Get a Council House”. I’ve been running #HousingStories Workshops, to help staff and tenants develop the skills to use digital media to tell their own, positive, stories; and on this year’s #HousingDay, I’ll be doing a roadtrip to highlight the good work done by many providers.

This morning I saw this story which suggests that Stockon-on-Tees Council is objecting to the second series of “Benefits Street” being filmed in their area. I know from some of my own contacts in the north-east that the producers had been scouting around for locations for some time, and that they had been “warned off” from some areas. So, what can be done about this? If the Council and others don’t want this sort of thing in their area, can they stop it?

Well, the short answer is obviously “no” they can’t. But, short of picketing the street, what might be done to disrupt attempts to paint such areas in bad lights?

One of the key things about programmes like “Benefits Street” is that they capture a whole lot of footage, and then take it away and edit it into something which tells the story the TV producers want to tell. So, how about we give the people who live in the areas where such programmes are being shot the skills to tell the other side? We can enable them to capture, keep, and disseminate footage of the kinds of events and stories that the TV producers would rather didn’t see the light of day. All it needs is a few smartphones and some opportunities to ensure people can get the skills.

Can we do this? Is it too late for Stockton?