Thursday, 9 January 2014

Benefits Street

Television programmes, advised a wise old 'Sun' hack many years ago, are for making, not for appearing on. The only association with the dire medium worth having involves being in charge in the editing suite and staying away from the camera lens. Having in my own small way made both corporate and museum videos I know exactly the mental 'set' of the programme maker; it's your narrative, not anyone else's, that you're building. And to this end you will cut, arrange, overlay, repeat and present all those little chunks of video and audio in a way that suits the narrative.

What astonishes me is that anyone who consents to appear on a TV documentary or lets a hack write a story about them for the papers expects anything other than a gross misrepresentation of their own view of themselves. The local rector may spend sixty hours a week tending dutifully to the needs of the local faithful and only an hour a week tending his collection of Nazi memorabilia, and is in his own eyes the very model of a good shepherd with an insignificant private interest, but we all know exactly how he will be described in the newspaper. "Normal vicar had odd hobby" doesn't sell copies. 

The polls show an overwhelming public support for more and greater welfare cuts. The very universal use of the term 'welfare' by both right and left rather than 'benefits' is a change that has come since I started writing this blog in 2007. It's as if we had abandoned 'disabled' in favour of the older 'crippled'. So when an entire street of welfare recipients consented to appear on a C4 documentary series, what on earth did they expect?  By calling the programme Benefits Street rather than Welfare Street no doubt the channel is trying to display 'balance' but such things cannot ever by their nature be balanced.

5 comments:

Sackerson said...

Like your point about producer narratives. So hard to get access to the truth in public communications, don't you think?

Nick Drew said...

ah yes, producer narratives

several years ago I made a public pronouncement about Child Benefit. Panorama was making a prog on this topic and they asked if Mrs D and myself would care to be interviewed, and give vent to our opinion: naively we agreed

they turned up at Schloss Drew, set up their kit (with a couple of tenners in hand for the staggering amounts of our electricity they used), sat us down on our own sofa under the their bright lights, and said: it would be helpful if you would say x and y and z.

But that wasn't quite in line with our actual views, and when we were asked the questions for the camera, we gave our own answers

CUT! look, what we're here for is a married couple who kind of agree with x, y and z, OK ? so let's try again, yes?

repeat several times until producer and interviewer draw stumps, visibly fuming at the waste of their time and budget

crew didn't care, we'd given them coffee and they were all on double overtime and outdoor broadcast allowance etc

Anonymous said...

Politics 101 for politicians. But their egos never allow for the learning though, so they?

Coney Island

Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder, doesn't it, if 99% of Climate Scientists are really saying, "Absolutely nothing is happening, or maybe it's getting a bit cooler", and this is being reported as "We're all doomed, because the sea is boiling. The only escape is back to the stone age ..."

JuliaM said...

"What astonishes me is that anyone who consents to appear on a TV documentary or lets a hack write a story about them for the papers expects anything other than a gross misrepresentation of their own view of themselves. ..."

A lack of understanding of consequences of their actions is usually why most of these people are on benefits in the first place...