Thursday, 20 March 2014


By Jim Black

WHAT are we doing to our children?
Sorry, I’ll start again: What is television doing to our children?

The proliferation of “Reality TV” programmes has me scratching my head in disbelief that those charged with deciding the daily schedules actually imagine that the majority of us want to watch wall-to-wall poverty porn.

“The Scheme” and “Benefits Street” are two prime examples of producers having lost the plot completely.

The aforementioned “The Scheme” featured residents of a Kilmarnock council estate and traced the lives of six families.

Not all who have the misfortune to share their lives with the “stars?” of this pitiful attempt by BBC Scotland to highlight “real lives” exposed themselves to ridicule in this cheapskate production that attempted to create personalities out of scumbags.

Watching a collection of degenerates behaving in a threatening and violent manner, exposing children to a diatribe of foul language, making their neighbours’ lives misery and generally acting in an offensive and underhand way is compulsive viewing apparently.

God save us from a repeat, or even worse, another series featuring such pond life as Marvin, who should be locked up and the key thrown away.
Yet this grim offering was deemed worthy of a Bafta award.
Difficult though it may be to comprehend, Channel 4’s “Benefits Street” is an even more horrific concept.

The idea here, it would appear, was to highlight the virtues of “cheating the system” while also attempting to turn the principals into loveable rogues and largely irresistible characters.

James Turner Street in Birmingham became famous overnight for all the wrong reasons. It portrays society at its worst – a litter-strewn road, children left to fend for themselves while their parents share a beer and a fag, and a self-proclaimed “Godmother” in the form of an odious, unattractive benefits cheat who looks to be in need of a good wash.

I refer to “White Dee,” who, having been sacked from her job as a council administrator for stealing £13,000, now offers advice to neighbours on how to claim handouts.

She is also the mother of a five-year-old who has been taught how to start a blaze using a lighter and deodorant can by two of the resident drunks, swear like a trooper and defy all forms of authority. How sad that this little boy will grow up never having had a chance.

Not everyone who resides in what is claimed to be one of Britain’s most benefit-dependent streets is a criminal, an alcoholic, a drug abuser, a drug pedlar or a benefits cheat, just the majority.

Apparently “White Dee” and her pal “Black Dee” have been offered a twin naked photo-shoot by a grubby porn magazine, such is the extent of their new-found status as TV personalities.

There has also been talk of “Black Dee” entering the murky world of politics. I ask you, has the world gone truly mad?

It would be laughable if it wasn’t so disturbing. But as many as five million viewers tuned into this expose on “Scumbag Britain” – if Channel 4 is to be believed. Mercifully, the other 55 million or so Brits did not.

Perhaps they were saving themselves for the next instalment of another Channel 4 production, “Embarrassing Bodies,” which regularly features displays of genitalia by individuals who are sadly lacking self-respect, apparently in the name of medicine.

Or maybe they were preoccupied by thoughts of “The Street,” another attempt by BBC Scotland to tickle our taste buds for “no-holds” reality documentaries.

The idea was actually not a bad one. Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street is after all world-famous and must have a million stories to tell.

Regrettably, executive producer Ewan Angus chose to focus to a large extent on a take-away owner who experienced difficulty completing a sentence without the use of the “F” and “C” words and a street musician who has a habit of getting up other people’s noses.

The fact that Sauchiehall Street has a proud and rich history was completely glossed over. One wonders what the City Fathers made of it all as a marketing disaster ahead of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games?

But does TV care? Not a bit of it, as long as the viewing figures stack up.
The age of innocence is long gone. TV has decreed that we will all live in the “reality” world, regardless of what long-term damage that is doing to the minds and wellbeing of youngsters who are being conditioned to think that bad is good.

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