Owen Jones Tears Into Channel 4's Ralph Lee Over Benefits Street On Newsnight

Columnist Owen Jones has torn into Channel 4's editor, responsible for the controversial programme Benefits Street, calling it "a medieval stocks updated for a modern format".

Jones, a columnist for The Independent, appeared on BBC Newsnight with Channel 4's head of factual programmes Ralph Lee.

He said that broadcasters engaged in a "relentless, almost obsessive hunting down of most extreme, dysfunctional unrepresentative people."

"The programmes hunt down the most negative examples, portray them in the most negative way. And then on social media people call for them to be gassed, hanged, shot."

Owen Jones, speaking on Thursday night's programme

Speaking directly at Lee, Jones said: "When you see on Twitter the response to your programme, and you saw people calling for the people on the programme to be gassed, hanged and shot, and all people on benefits too, did you think, oh, hang on a minute, maybe we could have been a bit more balanced here and not so sensationalist?

"I find that deeply distasteful," Lee replied. "But I don't think you should judge the reaction to the programme by the extreme reaction to the programme, a handful of very intemperate tweets."

The documentary, which aired on Monday night and depicted the lives of residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham, sparked hundreds of complaints to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom and Channel 4 about the way it portrayed people on benefits.

Some residents have claimed they were tricked by film-makers into taking part.

Earlier in the programme, Lee explained: "The producers have been working with the residents of James Turner Street for nearly two years now. There has been a consultation with them long before we started filming. We were there filming for a year.

"They were very clear and transparent with everyone on the street about what the nature of the programme was, why they were there and what the nature of the end product was.

"It's true to say the majority of people on the street do claim benefits, and that's what the programme was about."